|ATL||0||2||1||(0 - 0)||3|
|CAR||0||3||2||(0 - 0)||5|
The Carolina Hurricanes picked a good time to pick up the pace at the RBC Center.
Playing the type of offensive hockey that makes coach Peter Laviolette salivate, the Canes dominated from start-to-finish en route to a key 5-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers, a club that now falls five points behind the Hurricanes in the Southeast Division race.
Carolina’s lead over idle Washington increased to four as the Caps come to town Saturday afternoon to face a suddenly red-hot Canes team at home. Carolina is 5-0-1 over its last six in Raleigh and 7-4-1 overall since the All-Star break.
“You’ve got to win at home, especially now,” said Scott Walker. “We can’t sit back.”
Walker capped off the offensive outburst with a goal and an assist in the first 8:35 of the third period, giving him his first three-point game of the season.
“I don’t know if it’s confidence, it’s pretty simple, we’re just getting the puck and shooting at the net and it’s causing some second opportunities, third opportunities,” Whitney said. “When you throw it at the net nobody knows where the rebound is going to go so that’s kind of how we get our forechecking going better than dumping it in the corner.”
Walker fed a wide-open Keith Aucoin to give the Canes a three-goal lead with 11:25 left against the reeling Thrashers, who were outshot 46-28 one game after being outgunned 49-10 in a loss five days ago to the New York Islanders.
“People don’t know or haven’t heard of (Aucoin and Ryan Bayda) and don’t know what they can do, but both of them are skilled,” Whitney said. “Aucoin had 90 points in the minors last year and Ryan Bayda is a lot faster and stronger on his skates than people think. They got all their goals by going to the net and getting pucks there.”
After no goals in a fast-paced first period, the teams combined for three scores in the opening 4:59 of the second and five overall in the middle period as Carolina led 3-2 going into the third.
Twenty-three seconds after Cam Ward stood tall on a shot by Eric Perrin, the Canes struck when Whitney scooped up a loose puck in front following a misplay behind the net by Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen for a 1-0 lead.
Atlanta tied it less than two minutes later on a rebound goal by Perrin before Bayda poked in a shot from the point by Tim Gleason.
Ward made two good saves to keep Atlanta at bay over the next few minutes before Sergei Samsonov notched his seventh in 20 games with the Canes, who were the beneficiary of a new NHL rule that allows a goal to be scored off the skate as long as the blade is not lifted off the ice.
Carolina’s two-goal lead didn’t last long as Mark Recchi scored with 22 seconds left on an Atlanta power play, the 179th power-play goal of his career.
But the Canes outshot the Thrashers 6-0 out of the gate to start the third period, getting Walker’s goal and then Aucoin’s fourth in 20 games to go three games over .500 and remain atop the Southeast with 18 regular-season games left.
“We talked in the third, especially with my line, not to sit back and just try and protect a good game, let’s go forward and do the things we’ve been doing and end with a good game,” Walker said. “When you sit back that’s when they break you down.”
“You just don’t want to look back and wonder if a certain game would bite you,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “You’ve got to fight for everything that’s at stake every night. We’ve done a good job of that. That’s five out of six games that I’ve really liked the way we played.”
The Canes dominated the Thrashers in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting Atlanta 21-5. That didn’t include a post hit by Tim Conboy with 2:56 left in a scoreless first. It was the most shots for Carolina in a period since taking 20 in the third period of a 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Jan. 22.
The Carolina record for shots in a period is 24, last accomplished against Florida in March 2004. The franchise mark is 32 in 1984.
“It’s great to see five different goal scorers, all the hard work by these guys paid off,” said Ward, who improved to 25-20-4 this season. “Guys have come in and filled roles and done an excellent job.”
NOTES: Erik Cole played in his 400th career game. … Whitney now has five 25-goal seasons and 14 shots in his last two games. … Trevor Letowski assisted on Carolina’s third goal one game after leaving the ice with the flu. … Carolina, still last in the NHL shorthanded, have allowed at least one power play goal in its last five games – the worst streak of the season. … The Canes improved to 12-8-1 against the Southeast, including 3-1-1 over the Thrashers. … Three of Carolina’s 40-shot games have come in the last five contests.
|Ray Whitney (25) Wrist shot - ASST: Eric Staal (26)|
1 - 0 CAR
|Eric Perrin (11) Wrist shot - ASST: Marian Hossa (28), Vyacheslav Kozlov (18)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Ryan Bayda (2) Tip-in - ASST: Tim Gleason (11), Scott Walker (12)|
2 - 1 CAR
|Sergei Samsonov (7) Deflected shot - ASST: Frantisek Kaberle (14), Trevor Letowski (4)|
3 - 1 CAR
|PPG - Mark Recchi (11) Wrist shot - ASST: Ilya Kovalchuk (28), Marian Hossa (29)|
3 - 2 CAR
|Scott Walker (7) Slapshot - ASST: Glen Wesley (5), Trevor Letowski (5)|
4 - 2 CAR
|Keith Aucoin (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Scott Walker (13), Ryan Bayda (1)|
5 - 2 CAR
|Todd White (14) Snap shot - ASST: Ilya Kovalchuk (29), Mark Recchi (24)|
5 - 3 CAR
|Alexei Zhitnik Holding against Matt Cullen|
|Pascal Dupuis Hooking against Eric Staal|
|Ray Whitney Tripping against Eric Boulton|
|Marian Hossa Hooking against Glen Wesley|
|Sergei Samsonov Interference against Bobby Holik|
|Garnet Exelby Hooking against Keith Aucoin|
|SA: 46||TOI: 58:51|
|Saves: 41||EV: 34 - 39|
|PIM: 0||PP: 7 - 7|
|SV%: .891||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 28||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 25||EV: 24 - 26|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 2|
|SV%: .893||SH: 0 - 0|