The Atlanta Thrashers ended their longest losing streak of the season in their last game and gave a temporary boost to their fading postseason hopes. Their activity at the trade deadline and continued success against the Montreal Canadiens may help their playoff chances as well.
Atlanta looks for its third win in as many games against Montreal this season on Tuesday night at Philips Arena.
The Thrashers (26-26-11) moved within four points of eighth-place Carolina on Sunday, ending a five-game skid with a 3-2 overtime win against Toronto. Atlanta, atop the Southeast Division as recently as late December, had lost 16 of 20 since Jan. 7.
Ron Hainsey's goal in the extra session capped a comeback from a 2-0 deficit entering the third period.
''We had to win that game,'' Hainsey said. ''We've been losing against teams that we were racing.''
Determined to stay in the postseason hunt, Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley made a plethora of moves leading up to and including the day of the trade deadline. On Monday, Dudley traded forward Niclas Bergfors to Florida for forward Radek Dvorak, and he sent forward Freddy Modin to Calgary for a draft pick. Dudley concluded the day by claiming center Rob Schremp off waivers from the New York Islanders and signing recently acquired defenseman Mark Stuart to a three-year contract extension.
The Thrashers acquired Stuart and center Blake Wheeler from Boston on Feb. 18 for center Rich Peverley and defenseman Boris Valabik.
''We wanted to make changes,'' Dudley said. ''We did. We got some people who are young and enthusiastic. I think it's good.''
No matter the roster, Atlanta has had recent success against Montreal.
Ondrej Pavelec shut out the visiting Canadiens 3-0 on Nov. 26, then made 47 saves in a 4-3 road win Jan. 2, when Dustin Byfuglien scored in overtime. The Thrashers are 4-0-1 in their last five overall against Montreal and 6-0-2 in the last eight matchups in Atlanta.
The Canadiens (33-23-7) are sixth in the East and six points behind Northeast Division-leading Boston after a 4-3 win Saturday against Carolina. Montreal has won two of three since dropping six of its previous seven.
Alex Auld, who made 44 saves in the November loss to the Thrashers, got his second straight start in place of Carey Price, who had the flu. Price's status for this game is uncertain.
''I kind of got the word late (Friday night) that there was a chance and then this morning I was told to pretty much plan on it being my game, and that's the way I took it,'' Auld said.
Tomas Plekanec reached the 20-goal mark for the fifth straight season Saturday. He's the first Canadien to accomplish the feat since Stephane Richer did it in six straight 1985-86 to 1990-91.
''My job is not to score goals,'' Plekanec said. ''Obviously it's nice to get those goals but my job is to play a two-way game, and if I had some goals, that's good.''
Plekanec scored in the January loss to Atlanta and tied his career high with four points in Montreal's last win against the Thrashers - a 4-3 victory Dec. 21, 2009.