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Montr?al Canadiens 2, Atlanta Thrashers 0 FINAL @NHL

ATLANTA (AP) - Montreal goalie Yann Danis had the NHL debut he envisioned.

The 24-year-old stopped 32 shots in the Canadiens 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers Wednesday night.

``I imagined it,'' Danis said after shutting down Ilya Kovalchuk and a powerful Atlanta attack. ``It was a good start for me. Our team scored the first goal, so my confidence was there. ... But it's only one game.''

Danis is the third Montreal goalie to win his debut with a shutout, following Wayne Thomas in 1973 and Bob Perreault in 1955.

``He made saves when he needed to,'' said Saku Koivu, who scored Montreal's second goal. ``It was not an easy spot for him.''

Montreal coach Claude Julien rested the team's normal starting goalie, Jose Theodore.

With a little help from Thrashers' defenseman Bobby Holik, Jan Bulis gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead only 3 minutes into the game, and that goal stood until Koivu scored in the third period.

Kovalchuk, who in 2003-04 tied Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash for the league lead in goals with 41, made his season debut after signing a five-year, $32 million deal with the Thrashers on Saturday. He received his work visa from the Immigration and Naturalization Service late Tuesday, clearing him to play against the Canadiens.

Even without Kovalchuk, the Thrashers, coming off an 8-1 win over Washington, were averaging five goals and 38.3 shots per game this season.

Kovalchuk, who didn't start but entered the game early in the first period, couldn't score on five shots.

``It felt good to be back on the ice tonight,'' Kovalchuk said.

``We have a really good team right now. This was one game. We should just forget about it tonight, watch the video tomorrow, work hard and fix the problems and find our game.''

Montreal also had difficulty scoring.

After a save by goalie Mike Dunham three minutes into the game, Holik accidently kicked the puck into the Thrashers' net while trying to clear it out. Bulis was credited with his second goal of the season.

After losing Dunham for the remainder of the night to a groin injury about 7 minutes into the game, the Thrashers also were left with a young goalie, 22-year-old Michael Garnett, also making his debut.

``I felt a little twinge in the groin,'' Dunham said. ``I tried playing with it to see if the groin would loosen up, and it didn't, so I came out to prevent further damage.''

Dunham's status for Friday's home game against Toronto is not known.

Garnett was called up from Chicago of the American Hockey League last week to back up Dunham while No. 1 goalie Keri Lehtonen recovers from a groin injury. Lehtonen was hurt in a season-opening loss at Florida on Oct. 5 and went on injured reserve. He is expected to miss at least two weeks.

Garnett stopped 23 shots through two periods to keep the Canadiens' lead at 1-0 and overall stopped 29 of 30 shots.

``I felt good out there, but unfortunately we could not get any goals,'' Garnett said.

Montreal couldn't take advantage of a two-man advantage early in the third period when the Thrashers were called for two 2-minute penalties.

The Canadiens pushed the lead to 2-0 less than seven minutes into the final period when Saku Koivu took the puck behind the net and then reached around Thrashers defenseman Jaroslav Modry to push the shot past Garnett. Francis Bouillon and Alexander Perezhogin were credited with assists - the first of the season for each. It was Koivu's second goal of the season.

Kovalchuk had two shots blocked as the Thrashers couldn't score with a two-man advantage that began with about 4 minutes left to play. It was a fitting cap to a strong debut by Danis.

``I was really focused,'' Danis said. ``I saw the puck all night.''

Said Koivu: ``When they got the five-on-three, I was a little worried about that. When you have to kill almost two minutes, it's rough.''

The Canadiens moved to 4-0 in road games for the first time since winning their first four road contests in the 1973-74 season. Montreal (4-1) now plays four straight home games.

Notes: Montreal center Steve Begin was helped off the ice with an apparent knee injury midway through the second period. ... Montreal improved to 8-1-2 in Atlanta. The Canadiens' only loss in Atlanta came on Jan. 15, 2003. ... The Thrashers play host to Toronto on Friday night.

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