For eleven seconds the Montreal Canadiens regained their scoring touch.
The two quick goals in the first period were enough to edge the Thrashers at The Bell Centre. But despite the 3-1 victory, the Habs were anything but clinical.
Montreal’s two critical goals weren’t exactly pretty, but Jacques Martin won’t be complaining too much. Roman Hamrlik scrambled home the puck to end the Canadiens’ scoring drought at 199 minutes. Eleven seconds later, a quick break by the Habs was finished off by Mathieu Darche, who had plenty of space to beat Ondrej Pavelec with a quick shot.
Montreal will be thanking Carey Price once again for helping the Habs hang onto a vital win. Price made several key saves, but he could do nothing to stop Nik Antropov halving the Canadiens’ lead midway through the third period.
The Canadiens seemed to panic and Atlanta had several chances to tie the game on their next power play, but Price managed to keep them off the board.
Andrei Kostitsyn added an empty-netter late on to ease Montreal’s nerves, but they won’t exactly be full of confidence going into a crunch game with the ninth-placed Carolina Hurricanes. Two of the Habs under-performers, Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri managed to grab assists against the Thrashers, but Cammalleri is still without a goal in his last eight games.
Kostitsyn now has twenty goals this season, and the sniper thrives on confidence. He was targeted on several occasions by the Atlanta enforcers but held his own and deservedly picked up a goal.
Montreal will take a lot of heart and positives from this victory. The Canadiens came out with all guns blazing, clearly with a point to prove. Pavelec faced 14 shots in the first period, four short of the total the Habs managed in 60 minutes against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
There was a lot of intensity in a first period dominated by Montreal. However, the Habs didn’t take some glorious chances and were nearly made to pay for it as the Thrashers found a way back into the match.
The Canadiens take a seven-point buffer into a huge game in Raleigh tomorrow night (Wednesday). With this win, a lot of pressure is off Montreal – and a win in Raleigh would all but seal their place in the post-season.