"It felt a little strange to see the different-colored
jerseys,'' Hartley said. "But once the puck dropped, it was back
Hartley was hired by the Thrashers on Tuesday, taking over the
NHL's worst team after coaching one of the best, the Colorado
His new team was eager to make a good impression.
"The guys were a little nervous,'' captain Shawn McEachern
said. "We know he's the guy who coached in Colorado, one of the
powerhouses of the league. He's been coaching Patrick Roy, Joe
Sakic, those guys.''
Hartley guided Colorado to four straight Western Conference
finals and the 2001 Stanley Cup championship. He was fired less
than a month ago when the Avalanche got off to a sluggish start.
Hartley, who also won two junior and two minor-league
championships, is back behind the bench with the team that has
compiled the fewest points in two of the last three years and is
last overall again this season.
"The more of a winning frame of mind we get around here, the
better,'' defenseman Andy Sutton said. "He expects to win. He
knows how to win at a high level. That's exactly what we need
The Thrashers scored the only goal after Dany Heatley was
dragged down by Montreal defenseman Patrick Traverse with 4:42
remaining. Just 13 seconds into the power play, Jose Theodore made
a save on Heatley's long shot but the rebound went to Savard, who
flipped a shot through the screened goalie's legs.
"We kept going at them all night,'' Savard said. "We had four
lines chipping in, and that's what we need.''
Nurminen, starting in place of the injured Byron Dafoe, stopped
22 shots for Atlanta's first home win since Dec. 16. In that game,
Nurminen beat Toronto 1-0 for the first shutout of his career.
Ten days later, the Thrashers fired coach Curt Fraser, with GM
Don Waddell taking over on an interim basis. Atlanta went 4-5-1
under Waddell, who returned to his familiar perch high above
Hartley was not introduced before the game, but he received a
big cheer from the crowd of 11,116 when shown on the video board in
the opening minutes. At the end, the fans were screaming again as
the Thrashers held off Montreal on a brief two-skater advantage to
win Hartley's debut.
"I wanted to play like it was the last game of the year,''
Nurminen said. "I put everything into it.''
The Thrashers beat the Canadiens for only the second time in
team history and the first time ever at Philips Arena.
"They played a better defensive style this time,'' Montreal
coach Michel Therrien said. "Right now, they are tough to play
Theodore, last season's league MVP, turned away 32 shots but
dropped to 11-15-3.
"We're satisfied with our goalie,'' Therrien said. "The last
two months, he has brought his game to what we expected.''
This has become familiar for the Canadiens; eight of their last
10 games have been decided by one goal.
Nurminen came up huge during a three-shot sequence late in the
Joe Juneau swept in from the right side and was turned aside by
Nurminen, who also stopped Andrei Markov on the rebound. Juneau got
the puck again, all alone in front of the net, but his backhander
was smothered by Nurminen with another brilliant save.
"I think he saw the empty net,'' Nurminen said. "Luck or not
luck, I got it.''
Waddell was so impressed that he rose from his ninth-floor seat
to give his goalie a standing ovation.
The Thrashers recalled G Milan Hnilicka from their Chicago
farm team to serve as Nurminen's backup while Dafoe is out. ...
Atlanta RW Lubos Bartecko was scratched from the lineup with a
groin strain. ... Montreal RW Donald Audette, an All-Star with the
Thrashers in 2001, didn't get a chance to play against his former
team. He was scratched because of the flu. ... Montreal RW Richard
Zednik hobbled off late in the second period after being struck on
the left ankle with a shot, but he returned for the final period.