Canes collapse against Thrashers

Staff writerNovember 27, 2009 

RALEIGH -- Call this one the big collapse.

The Carolina Hurricanes carried a three-goal lead against the Atlanta Thrashers into the third period Friday at the RBC Center, but a three-goal cushion wasn't enough.

The Thrashers surged to a 6-4 victory, getting the winning goal from Rich Peverley with 6:03 left and leaving the Hurricanes dumbfounded and bewildered.

For two periods, the Hurricanes appeared on their way to a fourth straight win at home. Erik Cole had a goal and assist. Matt Cullen had a shorthanded goal. Stephane Yelle and Sergei Samsonov had goals.

But a lapse in concentration -- and the Thrashers' offensive explosiveness -- was too much for the Canes, who lost their third straight after road losses at Dallas and Anaheim.

Atlanta's Slava Kozlov scored at 6:21 of the third, then Ilya Kovalchuk fired in a shot at 7:09 -- two goals in 48 seconds. And had Manny Legace not made a sparkling glove save on a Colby Armstrong shot at 7:35, it would have been tied.

But the Thrashers kept coming. Maxim Afinogenov's goal with 11 minutes left in the third made it a 4-4 game and the Canes were reeling.

Peverley had an open shot in the slot and slammed it into the back of the net. Todd White added an empty-netter at the end.

Cole scored a first-period goal for the Canes and assisted on Samsonov's score in the second. Yelle hustled to score early in the second period, and Cullen contributed Carolina's second "shortie" of the season.

But the Canes lost defenseman Joni Pitkanen to an upper-body injury after the second period. With Pitkanen out, Carolina again had problems handling the puck in its zone.

Cole pushed the Hurricanes ahead 1-0 at 8:11 of the first with his third goal of the season. After a faceoff in the Thrashers zone, Cole quickly backhanded a shot past goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

The Hurricanes continued to pressure Pavelec and the Thrashers the rest of the opening period, getting 15 shots on net. On Carolina's first power play, Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal both good scoring chances but Pavelec made the stops.

The Canes also had a potential first-period goal waved off. They crashed the net and got the puck in the net, but Tuomo Ruutu -- back in the lineup after missing the Anaheim game Wednesday with a lower-body injury -- was ruled to have kicked it in.

The Thrashers, who were 7-2-1 on the road this season, soon trailed 2-0 in the second. Pavelec went behind the net, trying to beat Yelle to the puck. But a hustling Yelle won the race, collected the puck and scored on a wraparound at 2:18 for his second of the season.

Once again, the Canes could have added to the lead. Cullen was high on a shot with an open net, and Cole couldn't convert on a breakaway.

Moments later, Evander Kane scored on a tip-in after Tobias Enstrom forced a Canes turnover in the Carolina zone. At 10:31 of the second, it was 2-1.

But the Canes took charge again. After killing off a penalty, Carolina scored as Cole, flashing speed, carried the puck into the zone and fed Samsonov for an easy goal.

It was Samsonov's third of the season and his first in 10 games, and it gave the Hurricanes a 3-1 cushion. Soon, it was 4-1.

Canes defenseman Joni Pitkanen was called for cross-checking at 16:31 of the second, and Legace twice had to make good stops on power-play shots by the Thrashers' Ilya Kovalchuk. But the Canes' Tom Kostopoulos gathered in a loose puck and led a rush down the ice that ended with Cullen getting the short-handed goal -- Carolina's second of the season.

The Thrashers have been a dangerous offensive team this season, with a 32-13 scoring edge in third-period play before Friday's game. And they were dangerous again.

Carolina will go to Buffalo Saturday night to face the Sabres with an 0-9-3 road record, the franchise's worst-ever start to a season in away games. Pitkanen's availability for tonight's game was not known.

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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