"I don't think I was nervous even tonight," said Halak, who resumed his tenure in the Habs' net after he was benched for Game 4. "I was squeezing the bottle the same way."
And strangling any hopes the Washington Capitals had in closing out the first-round series in five games as Halak backstopped a 2-1 victory at Verizon Center on Friday night. The best-of-seven series shifts to Montreal in Monday.
It was in this building six days ago that replays showed Halak's hand appear to tremble as he grabbed a drink during the Caps' 6-5 OT win in Game 2. Two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin told reporters that Halak was "nervous" and the pressure on the netminder was a good sign for Washington.
"He can say what he wants," Halak sighed. "Maybe it was shown on video [again] . I think if you squeeze the bottle, your hand's going to shake."
No matter. Halak has settled the Montreal's recently unstable goalie situation --- at least until he becomes a restricted free agent at season's end. Halak made 37 saves, the only marker coming off an Alex Ovechkin second-period goal.
Halak turned away all five Capitals power plays, including one in the third period that produced some of Washington's best scoring chances of the game. He stopped Alexander Semin twice during the two-minute minor and also made an acrobatic stop on a shot off Tomas Fleischmann's stick.
"I think obviously, (Halak) is extremely focused," said forward Travis Moen, who scored one of the Habs' two goals. "He battles and played extremely well and it shows a lot of about his character for sure."
Halak was benched by Montreal coach Jacques Martin after a 5-1 loss in Game 3 in which he was pulled in favor of Carey Price midway through the game. Price got the start on Wednesday and all but imploded as he was whistled for two unsportsmanlike minors in the Caps victory.
"I supported his call," Halak said. "I'm happy he gave me the confidence [in] giving me the call [Friday]."
Martin said his decision to switch goalies was never about Halak's play and it was done purely in attempt to change momentum in the series.
"Tonight coming back here, I felt that Jaroslav would bounce back with a strong performance," Martin said.
"Our team usually scores three to four goals because we have a very good attack," Varlamov said. "We weren't panicking. The first thing we needed to do was get ahold of our emotions and keep playing our game."