MONTREAL (AP) - Chris Higgins showed how much he appreciated staying with the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night after he awoke from an abbreviated afternoon nap and learned he was still a member of his favorite team.
Higgins had two goals and an assist as Montreal scored four times in the first half of the third period in a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
"I didn't sleep this afternoon," Higgins said.
Higgins, the subject of trade rumors before Tuesday's 3 p.m. deadline, scored his 20th goal 2:10 into the third to give Montreal a 2-1 lead. He added his second goal in 2:46 with his 21st goal at 4:56.
Higgins, a native of Smithtown, N.Y., has been a lifelong Canadiens fan like his father, a captain in the New York City Fire Dept.
"I usually get a little nap in, but I went to bed with 20 minutes left in the deadline and didn't sleep the two hours I usually sleep," he said. "I woke up and wasn't moved so I was definitely happy, but I think everyone's relieved. It's a collective sigh of relief from our team.
Higgins, chosen 14th overall by the Canadiens in 2002, set up Andrei Markov's power-play goal as the Canadiens increased their lead to 3-1 at 8:17, and Sergei Kostitsyn added Montreal's fourth goal at 9:04.
Carey Price stopped 26 shots and Maxim Lapierre also scored for the Canadiens, who sent goalie Cristobal Huet to Washington for a second-round pick in the 2009 draft in their only trade of the day.
"I think everyone likes the team we have in this locker room," Higgins said. "Obviously, we would have liked to add someone big but we're pretty confident with the team we have."
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 41st goal in the second for Atlanta, which traded potential unrestricted free agent Marian Hossa to Pittsburgh before the trading deadline.
"Of course it was a different day than usual, but there was still lots of time to get ready for it," said Kari Lehtonen, who made 28 saves.
Thrashers general manager and coach Don Waddell had a busy day as he moved behind the bench to see his team drop its fourth in a row after he acquired center Erik Christensen, right wing Colby Armstrong, prospect Angelo Esposito and a first-round pick from Pittsburgh in the trade that sent Hossa and forward Pascal Dupuis to the Penguins.
"It was bittersweet because Marian Hossa's such a big part of our franchise and we knew it was coming to this point, and you have to make these tough decisions and try to do the best you can with it," Waddell said. "We really like the deal we made and we'll get these players in here and try to turn the page and prepare for Thursday night."
Price, selected fifth overall by Montreal in 2005, becomes the Canadiens' No. 1 goalie with Huet's departure. The 20-year-old rookie will be backed up by Jaroslav Halak, who was recalled from Hamilton of the AHL earlier in the day.
|Kari Lehtonen makes the save on Chris Higgins this time, but the Canadiens forward would have two goals and an assist on the night. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
"It just means I'm going to be playing more," Price said. "You can't overburden yourself with the pressure. I thought it was going to happen eventually and it just happened sooner than I expected."
Lapierre opened the scoring with his fourth goal 12:47 in.
Kovalchuk tied it at 1 when he beat Price for a power-play goal 2:04 into the second.
Higgins put the Canadiens ahead for good early in the third when he tapped in Michael Ryder's pass across the crease at the right post for the first of Montreal's two power-play goals in the third.
He made it 3-1 moments later and had a hand in the Canadiens' third goal of the period at 8:17 when he put a pass from the right side to Markov, who scored his 13th goal into an open left side.
Kostitsyn scored his seventh goal to increase the lead to four.
Notes: Christensen and Armstrong will join the Thrashers in Atlanta on Wednesday. "We'll have a good skate (Wednesday) and try to set some lines for Thursday night," Waddell said. ... Atlanta recalled D Joel Kwiatkowski, LW Colin Stuart and C Bryan Little from Chicago of the AHL earlier in the day. All three dressed for the game. ... The Canadiens also recalled C Mikhail Grabovski from Hamilton earlier in the day. Grabovski assisted on Kostitsyn's goal. ... C Bryan Smolinski, RW Tom Kostopoulos and Ds Patrice Brisebois and Mathieu Dandenault were all healthy scratches for Montreal.