ATLANTA -- Mike Ribeiro was simply trying to challenge the defense. He wound up with the winning goal.
Ribeiro scored for Montreal with 10 1/2 minutes remaining when an Atlanta player inadvertently knocked the puck in his own net, giving the Canadiens a 2-1 victory over the slumping Thrashers on Wednesday night.
Montreal won for the sixth time in seven games, getting 36 saves from Jose Theodore. The Canadiens have been winning with defense, allowing two goals or less in nine of 10 contests.
They earned these two points with a fluke goal - just 58 seconds after the Thrashers tied it 1-1.
Ribeiro was hounded by two Atlanta players as he crashed the net, actually getting tripped by Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre but managing to get off a semblance of a shot.
Byron Dafoe made the save, but defenseman Ivan Majesky appeared to knock the puck in with his right glove after running into the goalie.
"All I was trying to do was challenge the defense," Ribeiro said. "It was a lucky goal, but I'll take it."
The Thrashers aren't having any luck. Their winless streak is now at eight, a slump that already cost them first place in the Southeast Division.
"We're unfortunately finding some ways to lose," Dafoe said. "As a team, we have to dig deep and play even better."
Atlanta has managed only six goals in five games - and an injury to second-leading scorer Marc Savard doesn't help matters.
Savard sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the second period. He will be re-examined Thursday to determine how many games he might miss.
"Sure, we've got some key guys out," Dafoe said. "But it's an opportunity for other guys to step up."
Savard was returning to the lineup after missing three games with a concussion. He also sat out nine in November because of an ankle injury, but has managed 15 goals and 41 points in only 32 games.
Theodore came up big in the first period, stopping several good Atlanta chances, then turned away 18 of 19 shots in the third.
"We didn't play our best game, but we came out with the win," he said. "We have to keep getting points."
They will if Theodore keeps playing like this. He has clearly regained the form that made him an MVP two years ago, bouncing back from a disappointing 2002-03 season.
"I'm more experienced. I have better communication with my defense," Theodore said. "I'm better than I was two years ago."
He was helpless on the lone Atlanta goal. Randy Robitaille deflected in a shot from the blue line by Garnet Exelby with 11:30 left.
Dafoe, making his second straight start, turned away 29 shots in another strong performance. He stopped two breakaways in the third period but it wasn't enough to snap the Thrashers out of their doldrums.
Ribeiro assisted on Montreal's first goal, which came at 4:49 of the second period. After the Thrashers lost the puck along the boards, Richard Zednik passed behind the net to Ribeiro, who fed Pierre Dagenais camped all alone in front of the net. Dagenais beat Dafoe through the legs.
"I usually try to go on top," Dagenais said. "But this time I tried to go quick and straight in."
By a quirk of the schedule, the Thrashers were playing their second straight home game against Montreal. The Canadiens won 2-1 at Philips Arena on Dec. 29 before Atlanta began a five-game road trip.
The Thrashers had lost six in a row until tying Phoenix 1-1 on Sunday, breaking goalie Brian Boucher's record-breaking scoreless streak in the process.
Notes: Thrashers C Patrik Stefan was penalized as time expired in the first period. He was playing without a stick when he covered the puck behind the Thrashers net, getting called for delay of game. ... Atlanta activated LW Serge Aubin before the game, believing he was healthy enough to play after missing nine games with a strained neck and concussion. But his neck tightened up after the morning skate, forcing him to sit out. ... Robitaille got off eight shots - seven of them in the final period.
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