The first-line winger scored twice and assisted on Guillaume Latendresse’s third-period goal as the Canadiens rallied for 4-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night. Ryder had been among of the sick as a gastro-intestinal virus raged through the team last week. But the entire squad reported healthy this time as Montreal ended a three-game losing streak.
“It’s good to go out and not feel tired,” said Ryder, a 30-goal man last season who got his 12th and 13th goals. “Definitely it was a hard week for me and some other guys.
“I think the day off we had (Monday) really helped. We played a good 60 minutes and it showed on the scoreboard. We knew we had to come back and start playing good hockey again and I think we did that.”
Greg de Vries scored in the first period and Brad Larsen scored in the second as Southeast Division-leading Atlanta (24-13-8) built a 2-0 lead.
Tomas Plekanec made it a one-goal game late in the second for Montreal (24-14-5) before Latendresse tied it 51 seconds into the third on a breakaway set up by Ryder.
“When you give up breakaways in the first minute, it’s tough,” said Atlanta coach Bob Hartley, whose club was coming off two overtime losses in which it blew third-period leads.
“We played a pretty solid game, but it’s just one of those stretches you go through. With the leadership we have, we’ll turn the corner and we’ll be a better team.”
Saku Koivu, who won 20 of his 24 faceoffs, won a draw from Steve Rucchin in the Atlanta zone and, two passes later on a set play, Ryder scored from the slot for his 12th goal of the season for the go-ahead goal at 9:40 of the third.
With 2:47 remaining, Koivu fed Ryder with a pass across the slot for a power-play goal. Koivu earned his 500th career point on the play and got a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 21,273.
“The fans have been there for me so many times on different occasions and getting a standing ovation really felt good,” said Koivu. “But there was five minutes to go and we’d lost a few games, so we had to stay focuseed and get these two points.
“But I was really touched by their reaction.”
The Thrashers are 1-3-2 in their last six games. And while they combined for 16 of Atlanta’s 30 shots on Cristobal Huet, the big three shooters Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa and Slava Kozlov were held pointless.
The Canadiens had new-found jump in their game and outshot Atlanta 11-8 in the first but fell behind 1-0 when De Vries was left alone coming in from the point and banged in Glen Metropolit’s centring pass at 13:28.
Larsen was left alone to convert Jean-Pierre Vigier’s pass 10:36 into the second.
Plekanec got behind defenceman Braydon Coburn to deflect Mike Johnson’s pass at 15:02. It was the Canadiens’ first even-strength goal in four games.
A turnover at the Atlanta blue-line sent Ryder on a counter-attack down the right side to start the third. He fed Latendresse, who went in alone and lifted the puck over Kari Lehtonen.
Coach Guy Carbonneau was pleased to see Ryder end a slump that saw him score only one goal in seven games and drop to a team-worst minus-10. He was plus-1 in this match.
“Mike had a good start to the season but for whatever reason, he slowed down,” said Carbonneau. “Maybe he was relying more on his talent than on his work.
“In today’s NHL, you can’t do that. Tonight, he went to the net and it paid off.”
Montreal is 2-0 against Atlanta this season and 17-6-3 all-time.
The Thrashers played the second game of a four-game road trip that takes them to New Jersey on Friday night and Carolina on Saturday. Montreal starts a three-game road series Thursday in Philadelphia, then heads to Ottawa on Saturday and Detroit on Monday.
Notes – Francois St-Laurent was scheduled to officiate the game but was replaced as Bill McCreary’s partner by Staphane Auger due to a knee injury. . . Radek Bonk missed a second game with a sore neck while Janne Niinimaa and Aaron Downey were scratched for Montreal. . . Steve McCarthy and Jason Krog didn’t play for Atlanta.