ATLANTA (AP) -- Montreal's players knew high-scoring Atlanta would turn up its offensive pressure in the final period Monday night, but the Canadiens also knew they had an answer tending the goal.
Montreal's Jose Theodore made 13 of his 26 saves in the third period as the Canadiens held on for a 2-1 win over the Thrashers.
"Jose made huge saves," said Montreal's Sheldon Souray. "He does it time and time again. He's a rock back there."
Theodore has regained the form that made him the NHL MVP two seasons ago. His 2.23 goals-against average and .922 save percentage are better than his career averages.
"This was his night," Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk said of Theodore.
Kovalchuk, second in the league in goals and points, was helped off the ice with an injury late in the first period. He returned shortly thereafter.
Theodore denied two scoring chances by Kovalchuk, one by J.P. Vigier and one by Shawn McEachern in the final five minutes of the game.
The Thrashers generated repeated two-on-one opportunities in the closing minutes despite playing short-handed. Marc Savard drew a five-minute penalty for attempting to injure when he threw an elbow at Montreal's Saku Koivu with 6:49 left.
Time after time, Theodore denied the Thrashers.
"The Thrashers got their second wind and took it to us in the second half of the game, and that's where he did a good job for us and kept us in it and gave us the win," Montreal coach Claude Julien said of Theodore. "He was outstanding."
Only Detroit has scored more goals than Atlanta this season, but the Thrashers have been streaky. Shut out in three straight losses earlier this month, the Thrashers rebounded to score 14 goals in three consecutive games before losing 5-2 at Ottawa on Sunday.
On what played out like a short-handed goal, Montreal took a 1-0 lead with 3:39 left in the first period as Kovalchuk was sprawled face down on the ice.
Andrei Markov scored his third goal of the season from the right circle. Patrice Brisebois and Koivu were credited with the assists, but the Thrashers' top concern was with their leading scorer.
Kovalchuk was hit in his left ankle by a puck shot by a teammate, and he needed help leaving the ice. He returned about three minutes into the second period and took a roughing penalty.
With only 13 seconds left in the first, Brisebois earned another assist as Montreal went ahead 2-0 on Pierre Dagenais' fifth goal. Dagenais scored following a stop by goaltender Byron Dafoe.
The Thrashers cut the deficit to 2-1 at 9:42 of the second period on a shot by Ronald Petrovicky in front of the crease.
Savard's major penalty hampered the Thrashers' comeback effort and left Koivu with a possible concussion.
Julien said Koivu "got his bell rung pretty good" and was dizzy after the play. Koivu's status will be determined Tuesday.
Savard appeared to keep his elbow low, and the crowd of 17,310 booed the ruling.
Atlanta coach Bob Hartley also appeared displeased the officials gave Savard the five-minute penalty.
"You have to ask them about that," Savard said when asked about the call. "We're not allowed to comment on officiating."
Added Hartley: "Savard is a big player for us. However, we still have 19 on the bench, so losing a player will never be an excuse for not winning a hockey game."
|Andrei Markov (3) ASST: Patrice Brisebois (10), Saku Koivu (14)|
1 - 0 MTL
|Pierre Dagenais (5) ASST: Richard Zednik (7), Patrice Brisebois (11)|
2 - 0 MTL
|Ronald Petrovicky (12) ASST: Marc Savard (24), Frantisek Kaberle (20)|
2 - 1 MTL
|Sheldon Souray Cross checking|
|Ilya Kovalchuk Roughing against Patrice Brisebois|
|Chris Tamer Slashing against Darren Langdon|
|Darren Langdon Roughing against Chris Tamer|
|Shawn McEachern Interference on goalkeeper against Jose Theodore|
|Sheldon Souray Hi-sticking against Garnet Exelby|
|Darren Langdon Charging against Shawn McEachern|
|Ronald Petrovicky Cross checking|
|Marc Savard Elbowing (maj) against Saku Koivu|
|Marc Savard Game misconduct against Saku Koivu|