Canadiens' losing streak ends with offensive outburst
Tanguay spearheads attack with 2 goals, 3 assists against Thrashers
For the first time in a while, cheers were heard more often than the boo-birds inside the Bell Centre in Montreal on Tuesday night.
A five-point night by winger Alex Tanguay helped get the Canadiens faithful back onside, as did a 6-3 win over Atlanta to halt a five-game losing streak.
Tanguay scored two goals, including the winner, and set up three others for Montreal, which eliminated the Thrashers from playoff contention. Alex Kovalev added two goals, while captain Saku Koivu, the other member of the newly formed trio, added a single.
The line was put together only a day earlier by head coach and general manager Bob Gainey, who put the accent on experience in a bid to shake his team out of a tailspin.
"We were desperate," Tanguay said after the third five-point game of his career and the first since 2004 against Vancouver. "We didn't have time to wait a couple of games for it to click. We need to win now."
More importantly, the Canadiens' first win in five outings at home moved them into sole possession of eighth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference, two points up on the idle Florida Panthers. Both teams have played 73 games.
It was the first time in more than two months that Montreal scored more than five goals in a game. On Jan. 8, the Canadiens downed the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2.
It was only the second win for the Canadiens since Gainey replaced the fired Guy Carbonneau behind the bench. They are 2-3-2 since then.
With Tuesday's victory, Montreal improved its record on home ice to 22-8-6 and 37-27-9 overall. Games later this week against Tampa Bay and Buffalo, which is 10th in the East with 76 points, will conclude a four-game homestand.
Power play jackpot
The Canadiens, who entered the game with the 19th-best power play in the 30-team NHL, went 3-for-6 with the man advantage against the league's worst penalty-kill unit.
"We had to open up on the power play," Tanguay, who has seven points in his past three games, said. "We were too stationary. When the shot comes in from the point, we need to get to the net and, hopefully, get some bounces and rebounds."
They scored those three goals in a seven-minute span in the second period, with Tanguay and Kovalev — with his second of two goals — beating Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen twice as Bryan Little sat in the penalty box serving a double minor for interference and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Koivu extended the lead to 6-2 just 23 seconds into the third period, while Carey Price turned away five shots in the final 20 minutes and 22 overall for his first win in four appearances.
Glen Metropolit also scored for Montreal, while Andrei Markov collected three assists and Koivu a pair.
Another line formed for the occasion — consisting of Metropolit, Chris Higgins and Mathieu Dandenault — had a strong night, checking Atlanta's top trio of Ilya Kovalchuk, Todd White and Bryan Little.
Gainey said better defensive play helped limit Atlanta to 25 shots, the least Montreal has allowed in 21 games, since Feb. 6 against Buffalo. It was only the fifth time in that span the opposing team had fewer than 30 shots.
"The focus was to play a good strong game based on positional play," Gainey added. "In the last two periods, we were difficult to pass through."
Scoring for the Thrashers (30-38-6 ) were Joey Crabb, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Bogosian.
With files from the Canadian Press