Theodore steals spotlight in Habs' victory

MONTREAL (AP) -- The Atlanta Thrashers' improved goaltending
still left them short of a win.

Doug Gilmour, Jan Bulis and Saku Koivu scored to ruin
Byron Dafoe's debut with Atlanta, and the Montreal Canadiens beat the
Thrashers 3-2 Tuesday night.

"Obviously it's disappointing the fact that we got a loss but I
felt that I was seeing the puck pretty well tonight, and for my
first game in six months, I'm pretty pleased with the way I felt,''
Dafoe said.

Dafoe, an unrestricted free agent who signed with Atlanta on
Nov. 20, made 24 saves in his first game since the Canadiens
eliminated Boston in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

"I thought Dafoe was excellent,'' Thrashers coach Curt Fraser
said. "He gave us a chance to compete to win in this game and
that's what we're looking for out of our goaltending.''

Atlanta lost its third in a row, and fifth in six games.

Dafoe's play drew praise from Montreal goalie Jose Theodore, who
stopped 25 of 27 shots.

"He looked pretty good for a guy who missed training camp and
the first 20 games,'' said Theodore, who made a glove save on Marc
Savard's shot from the slot 51 seconds into the third period to
protect a 2-1 lead.

Koivu scored his ninth goal moments later as the Canadiens went
on to win their fourth in six games to end a two-game losing

"The points are big,'' Koivu said. "Atlanta's record is not
the best but they're working hard and they've been playing better
lately. I thought they played well defensively.

"I don't think it was a pretty game. Not a lot of good things
happened but we played well defensively.''

Gilmour scored his second of the season 5:40 into the second to
open the scoring and Bulis got his fourth goal at 9:07 to put
Montreal up 2-0.

Atlanta's Vyacheslav Kozlov scored late in the second and
assisted on Daniel Tjarnqvist's goal which cut the lead to one with
14:42 remaining.

Savard, who assisted on both goals, left midway through the
third with a groin injury and did not return.

After Atlanta outshot Montreal 7-6 in a scoreless first period,
Dafoe stuck out his right leg to make a pad save on defenseman
Craig Rivet's shot from the right point early in the second.

Unfortunately for the Thrashers' goalie, the rebound went right
to Gilmour, who fired the puck into an open right side.

Dafoe also had little chance on Montreal's second goal 3:27
later as Bulis scored into a wide open net after Dafoe stopped
Yanic Perreault's shot from the edge of the crease.

Kozlov drew Atlanta to within 2-1 with 3:11 left in the second
as he scored his fifth of the season on a power play.

Koivu restored the Canadiens' two-goal lead moments after
Theodore's save on Savard. The Montreal captain took Richard
Zednik's pass and cut across the goalmouth past Dafoe's sprawling
attempt before putting the puck into an open net 1:55 into the

Tjarnqvist scored his second of the season at 5:18 to draw the
Thrashers to within one.

Game notes
Atlanta entered the game with a league-worst 3.80
goals-against-average. Pasi Nurminen was 5-5-1 with a 3.41 GAA in
14 games and Milan Hnilicka was 0-9-0 with a 4.16 GAA in 11 games.
... Theodore, who allowed all seven goals in a 7-3 loss to Carolina
on Saturday, made his second straight start after missing two games
because of a left hip flexor injury. He entered with a 3.61 GAA and
.882 save percentage through his first 12 games.