ATLANTA – Montreal goalie Yann Danis stopped 32 shots in his NHL debut, shutting down Ilya Kovalchuk and a powerful Atlanta attack in the Canadiens 2-0 victory over the Thrashers on Wednesday night.

The 24-year-old Danis earned the win and shutout in his first start as Montreal coach Claude Julien rested the team’s No. 1 normal starting goalie, Jose Theodore.

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.

The shots on goal were harder to produce against the Canadiens, but Montreal also had difficulty scoring.

Montreal took a 1-0 lead 3 minutes into the game with unintended help from Atlanta’s Bobby Holik. After a save by goalie Mike Dunham, Holik accidently kicked the puck into the Thrashers’ net while trying to clear it out. Jan 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.

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.

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.

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.

Hurricanes 7, Capitals 2

RALEIGH, N.C. – For a change, Eric Staal decided to share.

The Carolina center added his first three assists to his fifth goal of the season and captain Rod Brind’Amour scored his first of the year, helping the Hurricanes beat the Washington Capitals 7-2 on Wednesday night.

“The way I’m playing right now, I’m coming with a lot of speed, the puck’s flying for me and I’m going to keep it going as long as I can,” Staal said.

The Hurricanes finally found some success on the power play, as Staal, Brind’Amour and Matt Cullen scored with a man advantage. They were 0-for-15 in the previous three games, a drought that stretched to 17 before Staal snapped it.

“We had been doing some good things on the power play, and when you don’t see the results, it can be frustrating,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “Again, we got it in, moved it around, had scoring chances, got to the front of the net, rebounds, and that’s what you need to do.”

Bret Hedican, Erik Cole, Justin Williams and Niklas Nordgren also scored for Carolina, which bounced back from a sloppy first period to hand the Capitals their third lopsided loss in four games.

Washington was outscored 15-4 in consecutive losses to the Atlanta Thrashers before beating the New York Rangers 3-2 earlier in the week.

“I thought our guys played hard and we’re proud of them,” Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. “We played right through to the end. We’re a physical team, and we’re going to make teams pay the price.”

At least one of his players disagreed.

“I think it’s a willingness to work,” defenseman Brendan Witt said. “I think our work ethic is not very good in the third. And you can see that in the games. But it might also be a learning experience with the younger guys. As veterans, we need to pass on that knowledge.”

Wild 6, Canucks 0

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Matt Foy scored the first two goals of his career and Dwayne Roloson made 33 saves to lead the Minnesota Wild to a 6-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.

Marc Chouinard moved within one goal of Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson for the NHL lead with his fourth and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored on a penalty shot in the third as the Wild (2-1-1) handed the Canucks (2-1-1) their first loss of the season.

It was the rebirth of what had become a bitter rivalry before the NHL shut down for a season in a labor dispute. An intense seven-game playoff series in 2003 and several brawl-filled games during the regular season instantly made the Canucks the Wild’s chief rival.

Even with a year off, the nastiness was still there, and it was no surprise that Vancouver’s Todd Bertuzzi was right in the middle of it. Bertuzzi, who missed 17 months after being suspended for a cheap shot on Colorado’s Steve Moore that left him with a concussion and broken bones in his neck, tussled with Alex Henry in the second period.

Chouinard scored shortly after the fight when he jammed in a rebound off a shot by Brian Rolston for a 2-0 lead with less than 9 minutes to play in the second.

Rivalries are en vogue in the new NHL, which has gone to a new scheduling format that increases the number of games between division foes and includes back-to-back games between rivals.

The Canucks and Wild play again Friday night.

The Canucks had difficulty keeping up with the faster Wild skaters for most of the night, and Minnesota used that advantage to put the game away in the third.

Bouchard got behind defenseman Bryan Allen, who had to trip Bouchard to keep him from shooting. Bouchard scored on the ensuing penalty shot, beating Dan Cloutier on the stick side for a 4-0 lead with just under 10 minutes to go.

Foy scored his first career goal in the second, and added another in the third when he backhanded the puck off Cloutier’s skate and into the net. Andrei Zyuzin and Rolston also scored for Minnesota.

Cloutier made several tough saves throughout the game, including two on breakaways by Foy and Pascal Dupuis, but fell apart in the third, allowing three goals on five shots.

Bouchard made him look silly on the penalty shot and he nearly let in a soft goal with under 5 minutes to play, prompting chants of “Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!” from the sellout crowd.

While not tested as often, Roloson came up just as big. Midway through the second period, Roloson slid all the way across the crease to make a nifty save on Markus Naslund, who thought he had a wide-open net.

Notes: Wild forward Marian Gaborik was out again with a sore groin. The team hopes to have him back for Sunday’s game against Anaheim. … Vancouver C Richard Park received a loud ovation from the fans when introduced before the game. Park signed with the Canucks in the offseason after being a fan favorite with the Wild. … Canucks C Brendan Morrison’s streak of 352 consecutive games is the second-longest current run, three behind Colorado’s Karlis Skrastins.

AP-ES-10-12-05 2308EDT


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