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Ribeiro gets help from Atlanta defenseman

1/15/2004

ATLANTA (AP) -- Mike Ribeiro was simply trying to challenge the
defense. He wound up with the winning goal.

Ribeiro scored for Montreal with 10½ minutes remaining when an
Atlanta player inadvertently knocked the puck in his own net, giving the Canadiens a 2-1 victory over the slumping Thrashers on Wednesday night.

Montreal won for the sixth time in seven games, getting 36 saves
from Jose Theodore. The Canadiens have been winning with defense,
allowing two or fewer goals in nine of 10 contests.

They earned these two points with a fluke goal -- just 58 seconds
after the Thrashers tied it 1-1.

Ribeiro was hounded by two Atlanta players as he crashed the
net, actually getting tripped by Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre but managing
to get off a semblance of a shot.

Byron Dafoe made the save, but defenseman Ivan Majesky appeared
to knock the puck in with his right glove after running into the
goalie.

"All I was trying to do was challenge the defense," Ribeiro
said. "It was a lucky goal, but I'll take it."

The Thrashers aren't having any luck. Their winless streak is
now at eight, a slump that already cost them first place in the
Southeast Division.

"We're unfortunately finding some ways to lose," Dafoe said.
"As a team, we have to dig deep and play even better."

Atlanta has managed only six goals in five games -- and an injury
to second-leading scorer Marc Savard doesn't help matters.

Savard sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee
during the second period. He will be re-examined Thursday to
determine how many games he might miss.

"Sure, we've got some key guys out," Dafoe said. "But it's an
opportunity for other guys to step up."

Savard was returning to the lineup after missing three games
with a concussion. He also sat out nine in November because of an
ankle injury, but has managed 15 goals and 41 points in only 32
games.

Theodore came up big in the first period, stopping several good
Atlanta chances, then turned away 18 of 19 shots in the third.

"We didn't play our best game, but we came out with the win,"
he said. "We have to keep getting points."

The Habs will if Theodore keeps playing like this. He has clearly
regained the form that made him an MVP two years ago, bouncing back
from a disappointing 2002-03 season.

"I'm more experienced. I have better communication with my
defense," Theodore said. "I'm better than I was two years ago."

He was helpless on the lone Atlanta goal. Randy Robitaille
deflected in a shot from the blue line by Garnet Exelby with 11:30
left.

Dafoe, making his second straight start, turned away 29 shots in
another strong performance. He stopped two breakaways in the third
period, but it wasn't enough to snap the Thrashers out of their
doldrums.

Ribeiro assisted on Montreal's first goal, which came at 4:49 of
the second period. After the Thrashers lost the puck along the
boards, Richard Zednik passed behind the net to Ribeiro, who fed
Pierre Dagenais camped all alone in front of the net. Dagenais beat
Dafoe through the legs.

"I usually try to go on top," Dagenais said. "But this time I
tried to go quick and straight in."

By a quirk of the schedule, the Thrashers were playing their
second straight home game against Montreal. The Canadiens won 2-1
at Philips Arena on Dec. 29 before Atlanta began a five-game road
trip.

The Thrashers had lost six in a row before tying Phoenix 1-1 on
Sunday, breaking goalie Brian Boucher's record-breaking scoreless
streak in the process.

Game notes
Thrashers C Patrik Stefan was penalized as time expired in
the first period. He was playing without a stick when he covered
the puck behind the Thrashers net, getting called for delay of
game. ... Atlanta activated LW Serge Aubin before the game,
believing he was healthy enough to play after missing nine games
with a strained neck and concussion. However, his neck tightened up
after the morning skate, forcing him to sit out. ... Robitaille got
off eight shots -- seven of them in the final period.