Montreal Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet stops an Atlanta Thrashers shot during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday in Atlanta. (AP/John Amis)
Coming off two straight shutouts, the Canadiens won for just the fifth time in 14 games, taking control early in the second period after two Atlanta players were sent to the penalty box about a minute apart.
Garnet Exelby was called for holding and Shane Hnidy went off for delay of game after the officials ruled that he intentionally flipped the puck over the glass. The Canadiens seized their chance, scoring twice in 46 seconds for a 3-1 lead.
Huet was singled out by coach Guy Carbonneau for letting in two soft goals during a 4-0 loss to Vancouver on Tuesday. This time, there were no complaints about the goalie's performance.
When Ilya Kovalchuk broke in all alone during a line change with about 12 minutes remaining, Huet kicked away the shot with his right pad. Glen Metropolit picked up the rebound along the boards and shot again, but Huet smothered it against his stomach.
The Canadiens went ahead for good 17 seconds into their two-man advantage.
Sheldon Souray fired a shot from the top of the circle that somehow got through two Thrashers coming out to block it. Goalie Keri Lehtonen never saw the puck, which might have been deflected by his teammates.
Exelby returned to the ice, but Montreal wasn't done with Atlanta still down a player. Guillaume Latendresse's shot was stopped by Lehtonen, but Souray dug out the rebound and flipped it to the side of the net. Tomas Plekanec fired it past the helpless goalie, still sprawled on the ice.
Sergei Samsonov finished off a spurt of three goals in six minutes, 40 second when he fooled Lehtonen from behind the net.
After teaming up with Mike Johnson to play keepaway from Thrashers defenceman Braydon Coburn, Samsonov suddenly darted out in front, stuffing a shot into an open net after Lehtonen leaned toward Johnson coming from the other side, thinking he had the puck.
Montreal had gone 138:17 without scoring before Alex Kovalev put the Canadiens ahead less than six minutes into the game. He slipped free in front of the net to take a pass from Latendresse, who lured the defence toward him as he swept into the Atlanta zone along the boards.
Slava Kozlov tied it up for the Thrashers with just nine seconds left in the period. Marian Hossa checked a Montreal player off the puck in corner, Kovalchuk scooped it up and relayed to Kozlov, who whipped the puck past Huet.
But that was the only letdown for the Montreal goalie.
Notes: Montreal snapped a three-game losing streak, while Atlanta's modest two-game winning streak came to an end. ... The Canadiens have won all three games against the Thrashers this season, following up wins of 3-1 and 4-2 in Montreal. ... Lehtonen made 29 saves.