TORONTO – Mike Ribeiro scored with 4:27 left to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Saturday night for their third straight road victory of the season and first 3-0-0 start in 27 years.

Ribeiro, standing alone beside the net, tapped in a cross-ice pass from defenseman Andrei Markov for the winner.

Steve Begin, Sheldon Souray, Alexander Perezhogin and Niklas Sundstrom also scored for the Canadiens in only their third victory at the Air Canada Centre.

Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev added two assists apiece for Montreal, which last opened with three wins in 1978-79.

Thrashers 8, Capitals 1

ATLANTA – Peter Bondra got the best of his former team for the second straight night, scoring two goals and adding an assist to help the Atlanta Thrashers beat the Washington Capitals 8-1.

Islanders 3, Hurricanes 2

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Miroslav Satan finally scored his first goal in an Islanders jersey and Rick DiPietro made 42 saves, sending New York to a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Senators 5, Sabres 0

OTTAWA – Dominik Hasek stopped 35 shots for his 64th career shutout, and Wade Redden had a goal and two assists to lead the Ottawa Senators to a 5-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

Lightning 2, Panthers 1

TAMPA, Fla. – John Grahame had 28 saves and Fredrik Modin ended Florida goalie Roberto Luongo’s season-opening shutout streak in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2-1 victory over the Panthers.

Devils 3, Rangers 2

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Brian Rafalski scored at 3:17 of overtime to give the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers.

Sharks 7, Blues 6

ST. LOUIS – Jonathan Cheechoo scored with 1:54 remaining to give the San Jose Sharks a 7-6 comeback victory over the St. Louis Blues.

Avalanche 3, Stars 2

DALLAS – Marek Svatos scored on a power-play rebound with 1:57 left to give the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars.

Predators 3, Ducks 2

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Paul Kariya scored the lone goal in the shootout as the Nashville Predators edged the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 3-2 in a shootout.

Kovalchuk completes deal with Thrashers

ATLANTA – Ilya Kovalchuk agreed to a new contract Saturday with the Atlanta Thrashers, ending his threat to play this season in his native Russia. General manager Don Waddell made significant progress on the deal during negotiations Friday in New York with Jay Grossman, Kovalchuk’s agent. Waddell said they signed Kovalchuk to just under $32 million on a five-year contract.

“Ilya is an important part of our franchise and we share in our fans excitement that he is back with us for many seasons to come,” Waddell said. “He is one of the league’s elite players and will play a pivotal role in our success.”

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Kovalchuk tied Columbus’ Rick Nash for the NHL lead with 41 goals.

in the last season before the lockout. He also had 46 assists, finishing 32 points ahead of Atlanta’s second-highest scorer.

If Kovalchuk had played a game in Russia after Wednesday’s start of the NHL season, he would have needed to clear waivers to play in Atlanta – an impossibility for a player of his caliber.

“I’m excited to return to Atlanta and look forward to getting back on the ice and helping my teammates,” Kovalchuk said in a statement. “We have a lot of offensive talent and I can’t wait to contribute and help lead this team to the next level.”

Waddell said the winger will return to Atlanta on Monday and practice the next day. He’s hopeful that Kovalchuk will have his U.S. work permit resolved in time to play in Wednesday’s home game against the Montreal Canadiens.

“Just think we’re going to have this player for the next five years,” Waddell said.

After the long layoff, Waddell bulked up the front line by trading for Marian Hossa and signing Bobby Holik and Peter Bondra. With the addition of Kovalchuk, Waddell believes the Thrashers could be one of the top offensive teams in the NHL.

“We’ve put a lot pieces in place this summer,” Waddell said. “The franchise is in position to take the next big step. Ilya gives us a better chance to take that step to go even further.”

Kovalchuk was in New York visiting his girlfriend and their new child, a baby girl delivered last week. He had planned to return to Russia on Sunday.

Now, that’s not the case.

“In the back of my mind I said why call a bluff,” Waddell said. “Let’s do everything we can to sign him and we did.”

AP-ES-10-08-05 1913EDT

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