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Canadiens hold off Thrashers 3-1

by John Manasso
ATLANTACarey Price said that while suffering through a recent bout of flu he did nothing but sleep for three days.

Sleep, as they say, will do a body good.

The Montreal Canadiens All-Star goalie returned to the net on Tuesday and was in top form, stopping 40 shots in a 3-1 victory against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena.

"You've got to give the win tonight to Carey," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "I thought he played a strong game."

Added forward Michael Cammalleri: "He was better than we want him to have to be, for sure. But really good. Really good. Carey played as well as we needed to. I think it feels really good to win a game we could've played better in and Carey was the reason."

Price came out for warmups on Saturday against Carolina but did not have the strength to go. On Tuesday, he helped the Habs win for the third time in four games. While Atlanta had its share of scoring chances, Price said most of the shots came from the outside and that the defense did a good job of keeping the middle of the ice clear.

For the game, Atlanta outshot the Habs 41-23. It was 25-13 at the second intermission.

"I didn't even notice for a while," Price said of the barrage he faced as Montreal sat back. "I was just focused on my job. Just worrying about what was coming at me, not what was going on their net."

In addition to Price, Martin also credited the play of the Canadiens' special teams. Montreal killed all five Thrashers' power plays and scored the winning goal on a power play.

Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay often talks about the need for his team to maintain discipline, but it was a lack of it that cost the Thrashers the second goal, as Anthony Stewart received a cross-checking penalty on the Habs' Roman Hamrlik at 20:00 of the first period.

Montreal made Atlanta, the League's No. 28-ranked penalty kill, pay just 34 seconds into the second period. David Desharnais skated out from behind the net with the puck and looked for James Wisniewski stationed a few feet from the right post. The puck didn't get there directly, but after collecting it from his skates, Wisniewski scored from a steep angle over goalie Chris Mason's outstretched pad and blocker.

Ramsay called the penalty "one of those very frustrating things."

"You try to teach the team support," he said. "I also try to teach discipline and where the game -- where it was -- you don't want to be taking the penalty. We don't like to take penalties, we like to play on the power play."

Max Pacioretty had put Montreal up 1-0 with 6:38 left in the first when his shot from the right point appeared to pinball off a couple of Thrashers' sticks and beat Mason low and outside the reach of his right skate.

One of Atlanta's best chances came with just under 13 minutes left in the second period and the Canadiens killing a delay of game penalty to Price. Nik Antropov crossed the blue line with plenty of time to line up a shot and his wrister snuck between Price's left arm and body but trickled wide of the net.

Antropov later got Atlanta's only goal and it didn't come until 5:46 remained in regulation. From the right boards, Anthony Stewart centered the puck and Antropov deflected it high past Price.

Brian Gionta added an empty-net goal with 45.2 seconds left as Atlanta was making a furious attempt to tie the game. The Thrashers' lost for the sixth time in seven games after ending a five-game losing streak on Sunday with a 3-2 win over Toronto.

Ramsay talked much about frustration after the game. For four straight games, the Thrashers have topped the 40-shot mark, but they've scored only one goal in three of those games while going 1-2-1.

"I think their goaltender made some really, really big saves on us to increase the frustration level," he said.

The Thrashers are 1-1-1 in a pivotal five-game homestand and dropped six games behind Southeast Division foe Carolina for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot with 18 games remaining.

In the last few games, the Thrashers have wasted strong efforts by Mason. Since relieving injured Ondrej Pavelec after the first period in a 2-1 shootout loss to Florida last Friday, he has allowed only four goals in 166 minutes for a 1.45 goals-against average in that span.

"It's a tough one," Mason said. "Again, I think we played pretty good. I think early in the game we made a couple of turnovers and they cost us…

"We've got to move forward. (The game) is over now. If we dwell on this one too long, it will be another four- or five-game losing streak. The only thing we have to do now is forget it."

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