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Atlanta star scores tying goal, adds assist

2/18/2004

MONTREAL (AP) -- The Atlanta Thrashers know they can count on
Ilya Kovalchuk to get their offense going.

Kovalchuk had a goal and an assist and Frantisek Kaberle,
Patrik Stefan and Dany Heatley also scored to lead the Thrashers to a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday
night.

Kovalchuk scored his 31st goal to tie the score during a
five-on-three advantage midway through the first and made a fine
pass to set up Kaberle's goal early in the second.

"It's nothing surprising to us because that's the kind of plays
that he's been giving us since the start of the year," Thrashers
coach Bob Hartley said. "[Kovalchuk] is like an offensive machine
for us. He's very creative, and he's got great vision -- just his
wrist shot on that five-on-three was something. He picked that
corner. He knew where it was going."

Pasi Nurminen made 29 saves for Atlanta, which won for the
second time in three games after a 10-game winless streak. The
Thrashers, who lost 7-2 Monday in Buffalo, improved to 2-3 on their
season-high seven-game road trip.

"We had a bad time over the last month because we didn't play
well," Kovalchuk said. "But we beat Vancouver and we won tonight,
so we'll be back on track. There are still 21 games left, and you
never know; it's the NHL, and we're trying to do our best."

Montreal's Jan Bulis opened the scoring, but the Canadiens
allowed four straight goals to extend their losing streak to a
season-high four games.

"We looked like a team that just started the season,"
Canadiens coach Claude Julien said.

Jose Theodore stopped 21 of 25 shots and made a huge blunder on
a clearing attempt that led directly to Stefan scoring a power-play
goal into an unguarded net.

With the Habs trailing 2-1 after Kaberle scored 3:06 into the second, Theodore tried to play a puck behind his net while Patrice Brisebois was in
the penalty box for interference, but he flipped his backhand pass
off the back of the mesh.

Rattled, the Canadiens goalie swatted the puck in front of the
net to Stefan, who promptly scored his eighth of the season at
12:30 to put the Thrashers up 3-1. Theodore raised his arms in
disbelief.

"Yeah, I wanted to flip it over," Theodore said. "Nine times
out of 10, I'm going to do it, but when things aren't going too well,
you should keep it simple. It was bad judgment on my part, that's
it."

Heatley scored his third of the season 7:41 into the third to
increase the Thrashers' lead to three.

Montreal, which has failed to register a point since the
All-Star break, got off to a good start when captain Saku Koivu
made a whirling pass to set up Bulis, who scored into a wide-open
right side from the slot 6:47 in for his 13th of the season.

Kovalchuk tied it with a power-play goal at 8:55 when he picked
the lower right side of the net with a wrist shot from the point.

The Canadiens failed to score despite having a five-on-three
advantage for a full two minutes after Nurminen was given a
roughing minor at 12:20 while a delayed penalty already had been
called on left wing Jeff Cowan.

Montreal, which went 0-for-4 on the power play in the first, got
another power-play opportunity before the penalties expired when
defenseman Andy Sutton was sent off for slashing at 14:03.

"Our penalty killing was outstanding tonight," Kovalchuk said.

Kaberle gave the Thrashers a 2-1 lead 3:06 into the second when
he beat Theodore with a backhander after Kovalchuk found him with a
pass as he drove to the net.

Game notes
Thrashers D Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre was a healthy scratch
after going minus-3 Monday. ... Canadiens RW Pierre Dagenais was
left out of the starting lineup for the second straight game. RW
Jason Ward was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
... Theodore has lost four straight starts and eight of his last
10.