Canadiens 3, Thrashers 1

With the Montreal Canadiens trying to avoid their worst goal

drought in 83 years, Roman Hamrlik knew the time had come to come

in and buzz the net.

Hamrlik and Mathieu Darche scored 11 seconds apart in the first

period to end Montreal’s three-game scoreless skid and the

Canadiens beat the Atlanta Thrashers 3-1 Tuesday night.

Hamrlik scored Montreal’s first goal in 10 days 12:56 in to end

a 199-minute, 1-second scoring drought.

”Usually I’m on the blue line but I just skated behind the net

and the puck was bouncing right there,” the Canadiens’ veteran

defenseman said. ”It was just a lucky bounce for me.”

That goal had not even been announced when Darche made it 2-0 at

13:07, to the delight of the sold-out crowd of 21,273.

”Obviously it’s a big monkey off everybody’s back when we

popped that first one,” said Carey Price, who made 27 saves.

Price lost a shutout bid 8:35 into the third on a controversial

goal by Nik Antropov. Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill was cut near

his right eye when he was struck by Eric Boulton’s stick on the

play that led to Antropov’s tally, which drew Atlanta within 2-1.

No penalty was called.

”We all froze for half a second,” Price said. ”Maybe we

expected something but things happened so fast.”

Andrei Kostitsyn scored into an empty net with 1:20

remaining.

Price had allowed eight goals and been pulled once during the

Canadiens’ three-game losing streak, during which Montreal was

outscored 11-0 while enduring three straight blank sheets for the

first time in over 61 years.

The Canadiens are sixth in the Eastern Conference with 89

points, two ahead of the New York Rangers.

Ondrej Pavelec stopped 28 shots for Atlanta, which is 11th in

the East with 76 points. The Thrashers, who have six games

remaining, are nine points behind Buffalo for the eighth and final

playoff spot.

The task at hand is clear.

”It’s 6-0, that’s the reality of it,” Atlanta defenseman Ron

Hainsey said. ”It may have been 7-0, this may have been a

must-win, too. The goal is to win every game the rest of the way

and see where that takes us.”

Montreal had been shut out in consecutive games by Buffalo,

Boston and Washington since an 8-1 win in Minnesota on March 20,

the Canadiens’ highest-scoring game in three years.

The frustration continued early as Pavelec stopped Michael

Cammalleri on a breakaway 7:11 in and Montreal defenseman James

Wisniewski’s slap shot hit the left post at the end of a power-play

opportunity midway through the opening period.

Hamrlik finally delivered the Canadiens’ first goal in four

games when he crashed the crease to put home his own rebound 12:56

in.

”Wiz gave me a nice pass in the slot and I should have scored

from that shot but the rebound was there,” Hamrlik said. ”It’s

nice to score. I don’t score too many goals so it’s always nice,

and we’re happy we got two points.”

Montreal was shut out in four straight games in February

1928.

Darche made it a 2-0 lead 11 seconds later when he beat Pavelec

from the goalmouth with a quick shot off Scott Gomez’s feed from

behind the net.

Boulton cut Gill on the corner of his right eye with a high

stick on the play that led to Antropov’s goal 8:35 into the

third.

Antropov left the puck for Boulton inside the Canadiens blue

line and crossed over to the middle of the ice. Boulton’s stick

came up and cut Gill as he played the puck, and the Thrashers

forward carried on toward the net while the Montreal defenseman

scrambled to follow while putting his glove to his bloodied

face.

”When you get a stick in the eye it’s tough, so sometimes you

react to that,” said Gill, who had a cut on his right eyelid.

Boulton passed to Antropov, who tucked the puck past Price to

draw Atlanta within one.

”No whistle, you just play to the end and fortunately for us we

scored,” said Antropov, who didn’t see Boulton’s stick strike

Gill.

Referee Bill McCreary, who was given a warm ovation from the

Bell Centre crowd just before the opening faceoff when it was

announced that he was calling his final game in Montreal, conferred

with the other on-ice officials, though ultimately the goal stood

and no penalty was assessed.

”They said they missed it,” Gill said. ”Luckily it wasn’t a

big miss. It could have been a tough one but those things happen.

He missed it, what are you going to do?”

NOTES: Thrashers RW Chris Thorburn fought with Montreal’s Travis

Moen late in the first. … Boulton got a misconduct penalty when

teammate Zach Bogosian was called for cross-checking 13:52 into the

second. … Gill was among the Canadiens players who shook hands

with McCreary at the end of the game. ”He’s been around forever so

it’s too bad we have to see him go,” Gill said.