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In the Habs Room: Antti Niemi excels, but teammates fail to capitalize

 Antti Niemi was selected as the third star in the Canadiens 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers.In a perfect world, he would have been the No Michel Briere Jersey. 1 star.Niemi gave his team a chance, but he playing behind the punchless Canadiens who were shut out for a team-record 12th time, including the last three times they faced the Panthers.Niemi said he didnt care who the Canadiens were playing, but this was a game he wanted to win if only because, earlier this season, the Panthers gave up on him. He arrived in Montreal after being waived by Florida, after previously being let go by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who the Habs play on Wednesday.Since he joined the Canadiens, Niemi has posted very good to elite numbers, with a .932 save percentage and a 2.41 goals-against average. But after the loss to Florida, his record with Montreal dropped to 5-4-4.Paul Byron described Niemi performance as incredible. Since the day he got here, he done nothing but work and work and work. He played incredible hockey for us. Every game he plays he gives us a chance to win.The saves we were forcing him to make tonight just cant happen, Byron added. It just not good enough for our team. It doesnt matter who hurt, it doesnt matter who out of the lineup. Guys have to execute better, they got to play the game better. Weve all played this game a long time and we know we cant give those chances like that and expect to win hockey games.With the loss Monday, the Canadiens dropped to 29th in league offence with an average of 2.49 goals a game. In addition to the 12 shutouts, there have been 13 other games in which they were held to one goal. That doesnt leave much room for error for the goaltenders.Byron said the forwards have to accept responsibility for the lack of quality scoring chances.I think that on us not going to the middle, Byron said. I know they back pressure hard, but we got to find ways to get pucks to the net and find ways to get shots inside the scoring area. You can take as many perimeter shots as you wantit on us as the players to go out there and work hard and find ways to get pucks to the middle and get secondary chances. Were just not getting enough of those right now. There no way to beat around the bush, it been a tough year, not the year any of us here thought it would be, Byron added. It been disappointing, there no real word to say other than that.The result might have been different if the Canadiens hadnt had a potential tying goal late in the first period wiped out because the play was offside, but Nikita Scherbak said he wouldnt use that has an excuse.There was plenty of hockey to be played after that and we couldnt score, Scherbak said Conor Sheary Jersey.It been a frustrating year for coach Claude Julien, who vowed to continue to teach and help his players get better.We are what we are because of the situation were in, but we know there are better days ahead, The coach noted that the Panthers are in a different situation because they are chasing a playoff spot.They won battles, they won races. We werent able to compete with them, Julien said. The biggest challenge for our guys if you want to be part of this team. Guys should be playing for their jobs. Were missing veterans playing big minutes. Danault, Pacioretty and others can give us minutes, but some of the guys we have now are used to playing 12 minutes and they cant handle more right now.