|ATL||0||1||2||(0 - 0)||3|
|CAR||1||1||1||(0 - 0)||4|
A week before the opener, the Carolina Hurricanes turned up the intensity in their third preseason game, getting three-point nights from Eric Staal and Ray Whitney for a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night.
The victory, however, didn’t come without a few injury scares. Fourth-line forward Tom Kostopoulos left the game less than eight minutes in after taking a punch to the face from Josh Gratton as the two exchanged blows during a fight, while Whitney exited with 37 seconds left after taking a clearing pass off the face.
Kostopoulos, who has been known to drop the gloves a time or two in his seven-year NHL career, was woozy after being knocked to the ice and was helped to the bench. He wanted desperately to return, but coach Paul Maurice stood his ground and refused to allow one of the team’s newcomers back for the final two periods.
“Especially when he’s new he wants everybody to know that he will (fight),” Maurice said. “We were standing face-to-face over that discussion because he wanted to go back in, and I understood it and appreciated it, but there was no way I was letting him. He’s going to have lots of time to do that again … and he’ll do it over and over again. That’s why we like him.”
Meanwhile, Maurice said Whitney was hit with a flat puck and not on edge, so it appears at first glance that he’ll be OK.
Meanwhile, the Canes broke a 2-2 tie early in the third with a 5-on-3 power play goal by Joe Corvo with 11:52 left, then got the eventual game-winner eight minutes later as Erik Cole fed Whitney for a tap-in score.
The Staal-Whitney-Cole line accounted for seven of Carolina’s 10 points, while Corvo added a goal and an assist.
“Whit just makes great plays,” Staal said when asked about his linemate. “He fed me in the slot a few times and I missed the net a couple times and got a few more good looks. He’s one of those players who really makes the guys around him better. We were starting to get better as the game went on, cycling the puck in the third period in the offensive zone.”
Carolina registered 38 shots and Maurice singled out Chad LaRose, Scott Walker and Tuomo Ruutu as players who hit from start to finish, but the coach wasn’t necessarily thrilled with the final 30 minutes of action.
“We had some hands missing, and that was a big concern,” he said.
Carolina’s second goal early in the second period was credited to Staal, whose centering pass on the power play went off the stick of Atlanta defenseman Paul Postma and past goalie Manny Legace.
Cam Ward saw little rubber over the first 40 minutes but made a spectacular glove save with 7:28 left in the second on a wide open Mike Vernace, only to see his shutout ruined 47 seconds later as the puck pin-balled around the slot before Tim Stapleton scored to narrow Carolina’s lead to 2-1.
Ward did face 21 shots over the final two periods as he gets ready for the regular-season grind.
“It wasn’t like I wasn’t doing anything. They had chances but they missed the net,” Ward said. “I felt like I was moving around really well in the first period.”
The Canes were outshooting Atlanta 11-1 in the opening nine minutes before cashing in when Staal’s shot from the slot hit the back of Walker’s leg before the puck dropped right in front of the winger’s stick for an easy goal on Legace.
The Canes finished the period on two power-plays while outshooting the Thrashers, who were playing without regulars Ilya Kovalchuk, Nik Antropov, Pavel Kubina and Colby Armstrong, 15-1.
NOTES: Aaron Ward blocked a team-high five shots. … Jussi Jokinen saw his first preseason action after missing two games with a hand injury. He was on a line with Matt Cullen and Ruutu… Defenseman Joni Pitkanen has yet to play following knee surgery and is still 50-50 for the regular-season opener in a week. … Staal and Corvo were the only players to log more than 20 minutes.
|Scott Walker (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Eric Staal (1), Ray Whitney (1)|
1 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Eric Staal (1) Backhand shot - ASST: NONE|
2 - 0 CAR
|Tim Stapleton (1) Snap shot - ASST: Marty Reasoner (1), Nathan Oystrick (1)|
2 - 1 CAR
|PPG - (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Jason Krog (1), Paul Postma (1)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Joe Corvo (1) Slapshot - ASST: Ray Whitney (2), Eric Staal (2)|
3 - 2 CAR
|Michael Vernace (1) Snap shot - ASST: NONE|
4 - 3 CAR