Carolina at Atlanta

Carolina stays hot with fast start in Atlanta, expands division lead

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ATLANTA -- After his team missed the playoffs last season, Carolina coach Peter Laviolette wants his team to show better focus.

Even an easy victory against the Atlanta Thrashers wasn't enough to satisfy Laviolette.

"We were on the short end of a few things -- work ethic, determination, grit," Laviolette said. "As a whole, we need to be better than we were tonight."

Eric Staal scored his 35th goal and Sergei Samsonov added a goal and an assist in the Hurricanes' 5-3 victory on Wednesday night.

Since Feb. 21, Carolina has won 10 of 12, including three victories against the Thrashers.

Staal agreed with Laviolette's assessment of the Hurricanes, though both were impressed with the effort of goaltender Cam Ward.

"He played well in the first period," Staal said. "It could've been a drastically different game."

The Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes, who improved to 5-1-1 against Atlanta this season, led 3-0 after Staal beat goaltender Johan Hedberg with a wrister from the slot 13:33 into the first period.

"I could've played better tonight," Staal said. "We had some guys step up and let us get the win."

Ward stopped 31 of 34 shots in making his 13th consecutive start. The first period included 10 saves, six of which came during a 1:39 stretch that ended at the 11:35 mark. Two of Ward's better efforts came on stops of a 14-foot backhander and a 13-foot wrister by Todd White.

"I was seeing the puck pretty well," Ward said. "It's always good when you take an early lead in the game."

Carolina led 3-0 by the 13:33 mark of the first period, ending with Staal's wrister from the slot.

Samsonov made it 2-0 with his 13th goal less than seven minutes before Staal scored. Hedberg appeared to be screened from seeing Samsonov's shot, a wrister that beat him from outside the top of the right circle.

Thrashers captain Bobby Holik, who engaged in a shoving match with teammate Eric Boulton in a loss at Philadelphia the night before, expressed disgust with his team's poor play in front of Hedberg.

"We were disrespectful to our hardest-working player tonight, leaving him in there like that and to get peppered by great scoring opportunities," Holik said. "I have nothing else to say about the game."

Hedberg stopped 28 of 33 shots as he dropped to 14-13-3, but he saw the outcome differently than Holik.

"We battled and showed a lot of character trying to come back," Hedberg said. "We have to play for our fans and our pride."

Atlanta has won only two of its past 15 games. Slava Kozlov had a goal, his 17th, in the final minute and assisted on Bryan Little's fifth goal in the second. Three minutes after Little swept the puck past Ward, defenseman Steve McCarthy added his first goal to make it 4-2 at the 4:56 of the period.

The Hurricanes improved to 12-3-1 since team captain Rod Brind'Amour suffered a season-ending knee injury last month. Over the past 16 games, Staal has 26 points, including eight goals, to lead the NHL since Feb. 14.

Staal, who was the MVP of the All-Star game two months ago in Atlanta, has six goals and six assists against the Thrashers.

Erik Cole scored his 21st goal, getting an assist from Samsonov, to give the Hurricanes a 5-2 lead with 5:09 remaining.

Trevor Letowski's sixth goal, a wrister from the right circle, opened the scoring 4:04 into the first.

Carolina reached 40 victories for the third consecutive season.

Notes

  • Against the Southeast Division, Carolina is 16-8-1 and Atlanta is 12-12-1.
  • The Thrashers, who won their first division title last season, are 14th in the Eastern Conference with 70 points.
  • C Matt Cullen missed his second successive game with a head injury.
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Frantisek Kaberle congratulates Eric Staal (right) after Staal's first-period goal.  (Getty Images)
Frantisek Kaberle congratulates Eric Staal (right) after Staal's first-period goal. (Getty Images)
Related Links
 
Scoreboard
Carolina  (40-30-5) «3115
Atlanta (31-37-8)0213
Three Stars
C. Ward
CAR


Saves: 31
Save Pct.: .912
E. Staal
CAR


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
S. McCarthy
ATL


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0

Related Video

Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
04:04Trevor Letowski (6), Snap Shot. Assist: Patrick Eaves, Tuomo Ruutu
06:55Sergei Samsonov (13), Slap Shot, Unassisted.
13:33Eric Staal (35), Wrist Shot. Assist: Jeff Hamilton
2ND PERIOD
01:56Bryan Little (5), Snap Shot. Assist: Slava Kozlov, Mark Recchi
03:35Joe Jensen (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Jeff Hamilton, Tim Conboy
04:56Steve McCarthy (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Chris Thorburn, Bobby Holik
3RD PERIOD
14:51Power Play - Erik Cole (21), Snap Shot. Assist: Sergei Samsonov, Bret Hedican
19:21Slava Kozlov (17), Snap Shot. Assist: Bryan Little, Mark Recchi
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
None
2ND PERIOD
08:55Wesley, 2 min, Hooking
11:54Boulton, 2 min, Holding
3RD PERIOD
13:23McCarthy, 2 min, Elbowing
16:31Valabik, 2 min, Hooking
Shots On Goal
 123T
Carolina12111033
Atlanta10131134
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Cam Ward59:44313
Johan Hedberg59:29285
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Carolina1-for-2
Atlanta0-for-0
Game Information
Attendance - 13251
Referees - Rob Martell, Dan O'Halloran
Linesmen - Mike Cvik, Mark Shewchyk
 
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