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Chris Higgins has two goals, assist as Montreal tops Atlanta 5-1

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MONTREAL - Just hours after surviving the NHL trade deadline, Chris Higgins had two goals and an assist as the Montreal Canadiens exploded for four goals in less than seven minutes in the third period en route to a 5-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday.

Carey Price, the newly anointed No. 1 goalie in Montreal after Cristobal Huet was traded before the deadline earlier Tuesday, made 26 saves and had the sellout Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 chanting his name by the third period.

Maxim Lapierre, Andrei Markov and Sergei Kostitsyn also scored while Saku Koivu had two assists for the Canadiens (34-21-9), who moved to within one point of the Northeast division leading Ottawa Senators and ended a two-game losing skid.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 41st of the season for the Thrashers (29-31-4), who lost their fourth straight in their first game playing without Marian Hossa, who was traded to Pittsburgh earlier in the day.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 17 of 18 shots through two periods, but allowed four goals on 15 shots in the third.

It was the first time the Canadiens won without a member of the Tomas Plekanec, Alex Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn line scoring since Jan. 24.

Montreal called up Mikhail Grabovski from the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs earlier Tuesday and he was immediately inserted into the lineup, while goalie Jaroslav Halak backed up Price after also being called up from Hamilton to replace Huet.

With the game tied 1-1 early in the third period, Higgins opened the floodgates with a power play goal at 2:10, converting a Michael Ryder feed for his 20th of the year. Higgins added another less than three minutes later when Markov's turnaround shot from the slot dribbled past Lehtonen into the crease for an easy tap-in goal at 4:56.

Higgins set up Markov up with another power-play goal at 8:17, sliding a pass through the slot for a re-direction into a wide open net.

Sergei Kostitsyn completed the scoring when he beat Lehtonen with a wrister to the shoirt side on a 2-on-1 break at 9:04 to make it 5-1 Montreal.

The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead at 12:47 of the first when Atlanta's Garnet Exelby fumbled the puck to the left of Lehtonen, and Lapierre pounced on it to slip a backhand in through the five-hole.

Kovalchuk tied it 1-1 on the power play at 2:04 when he danced around Steve Begin - who had no stick because he got it stuck in Todd White's skate - and used Mike Komisarek as a screen to beat Price.

Notes: Wingers Tom Kostopoulos, Mathieu Dandenault, C Bryan Smolinski and D Patrice Brisebois were healthy scratches for the Canadiens ... Thrashers C Bryan Little, winger Colin Stuart and D Joel Kwiatkowski were all in the lineup after being called up from the AHL's Chicago Wolves to replace the departed Hossa and Pascal Dupuis ... It was the first time in four meetings between the two teams the game did not go to a shootout ... The Canadiens improved to 7-3 on the season in games following two straight losses ... Higgins has now scored at least 20 goals in each of his three full seasons with the Habs.

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