MONTREAL – Scott Gomez had heard over and over again how much fun it was to win in Montreal.
Now that he’s got a taste of it, he wants that winning feeling to continue.
Brian Gionta scored the lone goal in regulation and added another in the shootout as the Montreal Canadiens snapped a five-game losing streak with a 2-1 win Tuesday night over the Atlanta Thrashers.
Gomez scored the shootout winner for Montreal (3-5-0) and had perhaps his best game with the Canadiens to allow them to win on home ice for the first time this season.
“We’ve just found ways not to win,” Gomez said. “This is what you’re supposed to feel like, it’s an addictive feeling, winning.”
The diminutive top line of Gomez, Gionta and Mike Cammalleri combined for 15 shots on goal and was buzzing in the Thrashers zone throughout the game, forcing turnovers on the forecheck and directing another 14 pucks toward the net that were either blocked or went wide.
“We had a lot of great chances, and I think that’s a good measure of how you’re playing,” Gionta said. “If you’re getting those chances then you’re doing something right, so it’s a matter of sticking with it and trying to be patient.”
Colby Armstrong scored in regulation while Ilya Kovalchuk and Rich Peverley were turned aside in the shootout for the surprising Thrashers (4-1-1), who have still picked up a point in five of six games this season.
Ondrej Pavelec was outstanding in the Atlanta goal, turning aside 34 shots, including seven in overtime.
Jaroslav Halak was not nearly as busy in the Montreal net with 22 saves, but had to be sharp at times in the second period.
“(Pavelec) was great and I thought the guy at the other end was pretty good as well,” said Thrashers coach John Anderson. “You don’t see goaltending battles like this very often. I just wish we could have won it for (Pavelec).”
Slava Kozlov was assessed a game misconduct and boarding major for a hit from behind on Gomez at 2:25 of overtime, but Pavelec made five stops on the ensuing power play. Pavelec had some luck, too, as Roman Hamrlik hit the post in the dying seconds of overtime sending the game to a shootout.
Gomez turned around and started throwing punches at Kozlov immediately after the hit, but wouldn’t react to it after the game.
“I’m not going to give him the satisfaction,” he said. “We got the two points, so I could care less what happens.”
Marc-Andre Bergeron made his debut for the Canadiens after being signed to a free agent contract Oct. 6 and completing a three-game conditioning stint in the AHL. He took a hooking penalty on his first shift, had his bell rung on a massive hit by Armstrong in the second and had just finished picking up his stick when Armstrong scored the tying goal in the third.
“I was hesitant at first, actually I was hesitant pretty much the whole game,” said Bergeron, who said the hit from Armstrong was not a factor in how he played. “At first I got my bell rung a bit, but after that I was fine. It took me a couple of seconds to get my bearings.”
Bergeron’s arrival did not help the Canadiens anemic power play, which went 0-for-5 and is now 2-for-27 since Andrei Markov went down in the first game of the season with a severed tendon in his ankle.
With the Canadiens ahead 1-0 in the third the Thrashers tied it up on one of their rare incursions into the Montreal end.
Rookie Evander Kane got to a loose puck in the corner and sent it to Peverley, who found Armstrong alone in the left slot for a quick snap shot that beat Halak at 6:06. It was the first of the year for Armstrong and the fifth time in six games this season Peverley has collected at least a point.
“That was probably our most dominant line in terms of time in the offensive zone,” Anderson said. “That’s mostly due to tenacity. They’re building some nice chemistry.”
The Canadiens dominated the first 40 minutes, yet only came out of it with a 1-0 lead as Pavelec made a number of big stops.
“I’m liking the things we’re starting to do,” Cammalleri said of his line with Gomez and Gionta. “We’re staying on the forecheck pretty well, making them turnover pucks, kind of snuffing out their breakout. That allows us to create chances. We’re starting to find some more chemistry and familiarizing ourselves with each other a little more, and I like the way we created chances tonight.”
Montreal jumped in front at 17:44 of the first when Gionta picked up a loose puck in the corner, wheeled out to the circle and used Christoph Schubert as a screen to beat Pavelec with a low shot off the far post for his fourth of the year.
Montreal outshot Atlanta 13-6 in the second and spent most of the middle period in the offensive zone, but couldn’t build its lead against Pavelec. Halak had to be sharp on a few occasions in the Montreal net as well, making nice stops on Peverly and two off Bryan little midway through the second.
Notes: The United Soccer Leagues First Division champion Montreal Impact was honoured prior to the game, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. aThrashers C Jim Slater and D Anssi Salmela were scratched, as was Habs winger Gregory Stewart. aThe Thrashers, the NHL’s top power play team, failed to score with the man advantage for only the second time this season. They were shutout on four opportunities. a Atlanta has been outshot every game this season