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Habs rip Thrashers to end slide

MONTREAL (AP) -- Bob Gainey's decision to combine the offensive

talents of Alex Tanguay, Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu added up to

a huge win for the Montreal Canadiens.

Tanguay had two goals and three assists and Montreal snapped a

five-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Atlanta

Thrashers on Tuesday night.

Kovalev had two goals and an assist and Koivu had a goal and two

assists as they teamed up with Tanguay -- who enjoyed the third

five-point game of his career -- on a newly formed line that

produced 11 points.

"If you want to have success, your best players have to play

like they're capable of playing," Tanguay said. "Alex and Saku

worked really hard and it was a good game for us. Hopefully we

can build on it and our line can play like that in our next

game."

Glen Metropolit also scored for Montreal, which won for just the

second time in seven games (2-3-2) since Gainey -- the team's

general manager -- took over behind the bench after firing head

coach Guy Carbonneau on March 9.

"Well, Koivu's line certainly performed in the role that they

were put into," Gainey said. "They were a good working trio of

players that were productive in the places where we need that

offensive thrust, on the power play and really throughout the

game. They played like they wanted to play together and they

were working to play with each other, good passing plays for

shots, for scoring chances and for goals."

The Canadiens regained sole possession of eighth place in the

Eastern Conference with 83 points, two more than Florida. Both

teams have nine games remaining.

"It's one game but you do have to start from somewhere," Koivu

said. "We couldn't wait any longer and these two points really

feel good. Hopefully they give us the confidence, that little

boost that we were looking for for the upcoming games. Obviously

it feels great, but there's a lot of work ahead of us."

Carey Price stopped 22 shots, including a glove save on Ilya

Kovalchuk's shot from the left side on a 2-on-1 break in the

second period.

"He made that look way more interesting than it was but he's a

good goalie," Kovalchuk said. "He was struggling a little bit

but he looks like he's found his game and they've got a good

enough team to make the playoffs."

Kovalchuk's 38th goal drew Atlanta even at 2 on a power play

2:41 into the second after Metropolit scored 32 seconds into the

middle period.

Joseph Crabb and Zach Bogosian also scored for the Thrashers,

who have lost three of four following a six-game winning streak.

Kari Lehtonen made 16 saves.

"I think actually we played pretty well," Kovalchuk said. "Their

power play was better than ours, but 5-on-5, I thought we were

better and we got a lot of chances, myself included."

Tanguay gave Montreal its first of three leads when he drove the

slot and put a backhand past Lehtonen for his 13th goal 7:21

into the first period.

Kovalev's 18th goal on a backhand from the slot made it 3-2 on a

power play 8:37 into the second before Tanguay got his second

goal of the game -- his 14th -- on another man advantage at

13:46.

Kovalev got his second of the game -- his 19th -- as the

Canadiens converted both power-play opportunities to take a 5-2

lead after Atlanta's Bryan Little had an unsportsmanlike conduct

minor added to his interference penalty at 13:16.

"It's good that it happened this year at a time of the year when

we've got nothing to lose really," Kovalchuk said. "We're not

battling for a playoff spot so that's a good way to learn. He's

not going to make those mistakes in the big games."

Andrei Markov, who had three assists, set up both power-play

goals while Little was in the penalty box.

The Thrashers, who allowed three power-play goals in six

opportunities, have the lowest ranked penalty killing unit in

the league. Atlanta has allowed 79 goals in 319 power-play

opportunities.

"Actually, the last 20 games we've been getting better but we're

still working on it," Kovalchuk said. "We've got a young team

and we've got a long way to improve our game to be a competitive

team for the playoffs. It's very important to be good on the

special teams so hopefully next year we'll be way better than we

are this year."

Tanguay, who set up both of Kovalev's power-play goals, got his

third assist as Koivu made it 6-2 with a backhand between

Lehtonen's pads for his 14th goal 23 seconds into the third.

Bogosian scored his sixth goal at 8:13.

Little and Mike Komisarek got roughing minors with 27 seconds

left in the second after the Canadiens defenseman came to

Price's defense with Little sprawled on top of him.

Crabb finished off a 3-on-1 break 14:02 into the first to tie it

at 1. Garnet Exelby drove down the left side accompanied by

Crabb and Rich Peverley with only Canadiens defenseman Josh

Gorges between them and Price.

Exelby made a centering pass to Peverley, who moved around a

sprawling Gorges and passed to Crabb for a shot into an open

right side.

Peverley got his second assist of the game on Kovalchuk's goal

as the Thrashers captain beat Price with a shot under the

Montreal goalie's left arm.

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