Atlanta at Carolina

First-place 'Canes pick up key victory against division rival Thrashers


RALEIGH, N.C. -- In the congested Southeast Division, one sustained stretch of solid play could make the difference between winning the division or missing the playoffs.

After the Carolina Hurricanes overwhelmed the Atlanta Thrashers 5-3 on Thursday night, Carolina coach Peter Laviolette hopes the Hurricanes are in the middle of such a spurt.

"That's five out of six games where I've really liked the way we've played," Laviolette said.

Even after losing captain Rod Brind'Amour to a season-ending torn ACL on Feb. 14, the Hurricanes are 4-1-1 in their past six to carve out what counts for breathing room in the Southeast.

With the victory, the Hurricanes extended their division lead to four points over the second-place Washington Capitals and five over the third-place Thrashers.

Carolina is also 5-0-1 in its last six home games.

"This time of your year, you've got to look within your own stall and say, 'I've got to bring what I've got tonight to help out,' " Carolina's Scott Walker said. "That's what everybody's been doing. I think everyone's been doing a great job."

Walker led the way for the Hurricanes with one goals and two assists. Ray Whitney, Ryan Bayda and Sergei Samsonov scored second-period goals, and Keith Aucoin also scored for the Hurricanes. Cam Ward made 25 saves.

Eric Perrin, Mark Recchi and Todd White scored for Atlanta.

Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen had one of his busiest nights of the season, making 41 saves. Twenty-one of those came in the first period when Carolina carried the play, outshooting the Thrashers 21-5. Only Lehtonen's stellar play kept Atlanta in the game.

"I think it was a big joke the whole first period," Lehtonen said. "I do not know why we were not ready."

Atlanta was hoping for a better showing after being outshot 49-10 by the New York Islanders in a 4-1 loss Sunday.

"It's not the start we were looking for," Atlanta coach Don Waddell said. "We had good energy in the locker room before the game and the guys were fired up, so I wish we could pinpoint it. It's pretty disappointing to come out with that kind of start."

The Hurricanes broke through in the second when Eric Staal pressured Lehtonen behind the Thrashers' net, forcing Lehtonen to lose control of the puck. Staal then nudged it to Whitney, who was in front.

The Thrashers scored less than two minutes later when Perrin knocked a rebound of Marian Hossa's shot past Ward.

Carolina went up 2-1 a little more than a minute later when Bayda redirected shot by Tim Gleason from the point past Lehtonen.

The Hurricanes scored again when Frank Kaberle gathered his own rebound in the slot and slapped it off Samsonov's skate. Samsonov's foot appeared to be off the ground when it redirected the puck in the net, but the play withstood a video review.

Samsonov has scored seven goals in 20 games since Carolina claimed him on re-entry waivers on Jan. 8.

Atlanta trimmed the deficit to a goal late in the period when Ilya Kovalchuk's shot from the point smacked off the end boards and bounced back into the crease. Recchi, who played for Carolina when it won the Stanley Cup in 2006, poked the puck above Ward's glove for a power-play goal. Recchi has scored nine goals in 33 games with Atlanta.

Aucoin and Walker scored early in the third to make it 5-2.

Carolina cruised from there.

"We knew the importance of it, obviously," Whitney said. "We came out and we had a little energy to us. We had a little spark to us. We decided we had to get pucks to the net and get them any way we can. We were certainly ready for tonight's game."


  • Atlanta dropped to 12-8-1 in division games.
  • Staal has seven points in his last five games.
  • Four of Atlanta's next five games are on the road.
  • The Hurricanes are the only team in the NHL without a defenseman averaging at least 20 minutes of ice time.
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.
Sergei Samsonov earns some love after his goal, which helps the Hurricanes increase their division lead.  (AP)
Sergei Samsonov earns some love after his goal, which helps the Hurricanes increase their division lead. (AP)
Atlanta (29-29-4)0213
Carolina  (31-28-5) «0325
Three Stars
S. Walker

Goals: 1
Assist(s): 2
R. Bayda

Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
T. Gleason

Goals: 0
Assist(s): 1

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Scoring Summary
02:08Ray Whitney (25), Wrist Shot. Assist: Eric Staal
03:48Eric Perrin (11), Wrist Shot. Assist: Marian Hossa, Slava Kozlov
04:59Ryan Bayda (2), Tip-In. Assist: Tim Gleason, Scott Walker
12:25Sergei Samsonov (7), Tip-In. Assist: Frantisek Kaberle, Trevor Letowski
16:42Power Play - Mark Recchi (11), Wrist Shot. Assist: Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa
03:51Scott Walker (7), Slap Shot. Assist: Glen Wesley, Trevor Letowski
08:35Keith Aucoin (4), Wrist Shot. Assist: Scott Walker, Ryan Bayda
18:37Todd White (14), Snap Shot. Assist: Ilya Kovalchuk, Mark Recchi
Penalty Summary
12:31Zhitnik, 2 min, Holding
19:32Dupuis, 2 min, Hooking
07:33Whitney, 2 min, Tripping
07:45Hossa, 2 min, Hooking
15:03Samsonov, 2 min, Interference
01:01Exelby, 2 min, Hooking
Shots On Goal
Kari Lehtonen58:51415
Cam Ward60:00253
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Game Information
Attendance - 13548
Referees - Marc Joannette, Dean Warren
Linesmen - Andy McElman, Mark Wheler
Other Games
SJ 3 Final
Phi 1
StL 1 Final
LA 5
Bos 5 Final
Fla 4
Van 3 Final
Nash 2
Colu 3 Final
Ott 2
Buf 5 Final
Tor 1
Pitt 5 Final
Mon 4
TB 0 Final