ATLANTA (AP – Dec 26, 9:43 pm EST) — Michael Garnett has made the most of his chance to impress Atlanta Thrashers coach Bob Hartley.
Kari Lehtonen’s return from injured reserve Monday will probably mean less ice time for Garnett, but the rookie goaltender won’t mind.
“Everything I achieve is a major step.” Garnett said. “From just playing to doing this now, it’s pretty crazy.”
Garnett became the first Atlanta goaltender to post consecutive shutouts as Jaroslav Modry had a goal and three assists in the Thrashers’ 4-0 victory over Montreal on Monday night.
The Canadiens entered with an 8-1-2 record all-time at Philips Arena, but they lost their ninth straight on the road.
Garnett had 36 saves, giving him 65 in the last two games. He won 1-0 at New Jersey on Friday night, but Hartley was noncommittal if Garnett (9-7-3) will make his 16th straight start when Philadelphia visits Atlanta on Wednesday night.
“I said this morning that in this business, you have to reward the players that are playing well, and Michael Garnett is definitely giving us a chance to win,” Hartley said. “It’s pretty easy to say his confidence is growing, and our confidence in him is growing also.”
Lehtonen, who hasn’t played since the season opener, was taken off the injured reserve list before the game. The No. 2 overall draft pick of 2002, Lehtonen missed the last 35 games with a strained groin.
Improving to 6-0-2 since losing at San Jose on Dec. 6, Atlanta set a franchise mark by earning a point in eight consecutive games.
“I think we picked up life from the New Jersey game,” Hartley said. “Our penalty killing is unbelievable, and once again our penalty killer is Garnett. Our forwards and our defensemen also are doing a great job blocking shots and applying pressure. We’re making smart decisions.”
Ilya Kovalchuk, who was tied with Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour and Jaromir Jagr of the New York Rangers with 11 power-play goals, ended the scoring with his 12th — a slap slot from the center of the left circle — late in the third. The goal was Kovalchuk’s 23rd.
Kovalchuk added an assist on Marc Savard’s power-play goal, which made it 3-0 at 10:41 of the second. Savard, who snapped a seven-game point streak against the Devils, scored his 16th goal for his team-leading 49th point.
Atlanta Thrashers left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, right, of Russia, celebrates his third period goal against the Montreal Canadiens with Thrashers defenseman Jaroslav Modry (44) of the Czech Republic on Monday, Dec. 26, 2005 in NHL hockey action at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Modry also had a first period goal as the Thrashers won 4-0.
With six goals and seven assists in his last eight games, Kovalchuk has a point in 18 of his last 22 games.
Modry’s fifth goal, a slap shot from the top of the slot, made it 1-0 late in the first. His third assist gave him 15 overall.
Jim Slater gave the Thrashers a 2-0 lead 2:01 into the second when he slid the puck under Cristobal Huet’s right leg.
Huet stopped 32 of 38 shots as he dropped to 1-2-1. He was impressed with Garnett’s ability to work fluidly on penalty killing. Montreal went 0-for-6 on the power play.
“I’m sure he made some good stops, but I was focusing on my own games,” Huet said. “He’s hot, but I tried not to focus on that.”
Andy Sutton blocked two shots in short-handed situations for the Thrashers. He and fellow defenseman Niclas Havelid combined for 15:12 of the time Atlanta spent killing penalties.
“We’re doing all the little things right,” Sutton said. “That’s what it takes to win. We’re playing well every shift.”
Canadiens G Jose Theodore (13-7-2) missed his fourth straight game with a knee injury. … Montreal had held the Thrashers scoreless on 25 power-play chances in winning two games earlier this season. … Garnett has held the opposing team scoreless for the last seven periods.
There will be no HabsWorld game recap between Christmas and the New Year’ evening game.
Dec 28 @Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Dec 30 @Florida 7:30 PM
Dec 31 @Carolina 8:00 PM