Canadiens trump Thrashers to snap winless streak
Bob Gainey's decision to combine the offensive talents of Alex Tanguay, Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu added up to a huge win for the Montreal Canadiens.
Tanguay had two goals and three assists and Montreal snapped a five-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night.
Kovalev had two goals and an assist and Koivu had a goal and two assists as they teamed up with Tanguay - who enjoyed the third five-point game of his career - on a newly formed line that produced 11 points.
"If you want to have success, your best players have to play like they're capable of playing," Tanguay said. "Alex and Saku worked really hard and it was a good game for us. Hopefully we can build on it and our line can play like that in our next game."
Glen Metropolit also scored for Montreal, which won for just the second time in seven games (2-3-2) since Gainey - the team's general manager - took over behind the bench after firing head coach Guy Carbonneau on March 9.
"Well, Koivu's line certainly performed in the role that they were put into," Gainey said. "They were a good working trio of players that were productive in the places where we need that offensive thrust, on the power play and really throughout the game. They played like they wanted to play together and they were working to play with each other, good passing plays for shots, for scoring chances and for goals."
The Canadiens regained sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 83 points, two more than Florida. Both teams have nine games remaining.
"It's one game but you do have to start from somewhere," Koivu said. "We couldn't wait any longer and these two points really feel good. Hopefully they give us the confidence, that little boost that we were looking for for the upcoming games. Obviously it feels great, but there's a lot of work ahead of us."
Carey Price stopped 22 shots, including a glove save on Ilya Kovalchuk's shot from the left side on a 2-on-1 break in the second period.
"He made that look way more interesting than it was but he's a good goalie," Kovalchuk said. "He was struggling a little bit but he looks like he's found his game and they've got a good enough team to make the playoffs."
Kovalchuk's 38th goal drew Atlanta even at 2 on a power play 2:41 into the second after Metropolit scored 32 seconds into the middle period.
Joseph Crabb and Zach Bogosian also scored for the Thrashers, who have lost three of four following a six-game winning streak.
Kari Lehtonen made 16 saves.
"I think actually we played pretty well," Kovalchuk said. "Their power play was better than ours, but 5-on-5, I thought we were better and we got a lot of chances, myself included."
Tanguay gave Montreal its first of three leads when he drove the slot and put a backhand past Lehtonen for his 13th goal 7:21 into the first period.
Kovalev's 18th goal on a backhand from the slot made it 3-2 on a power play 8:37 into the second before Tanguay got his second goal of the game - his 14th - on another man advantage at 13:46.
Kovalev got his second of the game - his 19th - as the Canadiens converted both power-play opportunities to take a 5-2 lead after Atlanta's Bryan Little had an unsportsmanlike conduct minor added to his interference penalty at 13:16.
"It's good that it happened this year at a time of the year when we've got nothing to lose really," Kovalchuk said. "We're not battling for a playoff spot so that's a good way to learn. He's not going to make those mistakes in the big games."
Andrei Markov, who had three assists, set up both power-play goals while Little was in the penalty box.
The Thrashers, who allowed three power-play goals in six opportunities, have the lowest ranked penalty killing unit in the league. Atlanta has allowed 79 goals in 319 power-play opportunities.
"Actually, the last 20 games we've been getting better but we're still working on it," Kovalchuk said. "We've got a young team and we've got a long way to improve our game to be a competitive team for the playoffs. It's very important to be good on the special teams so hopefully next year we'll be way better than we are this year."
Tanguay, who set up both of Kovalev's power-play goals, got his third assist as Koivu made it 6-2 with a backhand between Lehtonen's pads for his 14th goal 23 seconds into the third.
Bogosian scored his sixth goal at 8:13.
Little and Mike Komisarek got roughing minors with 27 seconds left in the second after the Canadiens defenseman came to Price's defense with Little sprawled on top of him.
Crabb finished off a 3-on-1 break 14:02 into the first to tie it at 1. Garnet Exelby drove down the left side accompanied by Crabb and Rich Peverley with only Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges between them and Price.
Exelby made a centering pass to Peverley, who moved around a sprawling Gorges and passed to Crabb for a shot into an open right side.
Peverley got his second assist of the game on Kovalchuk's goal as the Thrashers captain beat Price with a shot under the Montreal goalie's left arm.
Thrashers C Todd White ended a nine-game points streak, and LW Slava Kozlov's streak ended at eight. White had three goals and seven assists during his streak, and Kozlov had four goals and eight assists. ... Kovalchuk has 12 power-play goals, tying him with Little and White for the team lead. ... Tanguay had his most recent five-point game with Colorado on March 3, 2004, when he had two goals and three assists against Vancouver.