RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes have beaten the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils at home this season. They have handled the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks.
That covers most of the NHL's best, doesn't it?
But not the Atlanta Thrashers. The Hurricanes could not beat the Thrashers this season at the RBC Center.
Continuing a recent trend of following a tough, emotional win with a generally flat performance, the Canes were outskated, outworked and outshot by the Thrashers, who won 4-0 as goaltender Johan Hedberg picked up his second shutout of the season.
"They came out more desperate than we did," Canes captain Eric Staal said. "They worked harder and deserved it a little more than we did."
Atlanta (33-30-12) remained two points out of eighth place - and playoff position - in the Eastern Conference with seven games left in the regular season. As for the Canes (31-35-9), they couldn't match their sharp, energetic effort in a thrilling 3-2 shootout win Thursday over the Caps with another against the Thrashers.
The Hurricanes have won both games against the Thrashers at Philips Arena in Atlanta this season, and will face the Thrashers at Philips again Monday to finish up the season series. But they were 0-3 at home against Atlanta.
"We had a big win [over the Caps] the other night, but we needed this game and I thought we came out a little flat," Canes goaltender Manny Legace said.
Legace had 17 saves in a scoreless first period in which Carolina butchered two power plays. The Canes began the second period with 1:43 of a man advantage, but Atlanta, which has not allowed a power-play goal in its last six games, killed it off and then a fourth penalty late in the second period.
The Hurricanes had scored on seven of 20 power plays against the Thrashers in the first four games this season. But Carolina managed just one shot off its four power plays in being outshot 29-15 in the first two periods.
"Manny was real good in the first period and we needed to get more on them," Canes coach Paul Maurice said of the failed power plays. "I think that hurt us, hurt the confidence of our top players.
"The mentality of putting the puck at the net first and driving the net just wasn't there, and I think that bled over to our five-on-five game."
While the Canes bled, the Thrashers used rushes into the Carolina zone to take a 2-0 lead in a 57-second span of the second and added a third goal late in the period.
Rich Peverley struck first, taking a pass from Maxim Afinogenov in the slot and beating Legace at 7:48. Evgeny Artyukhin then scored on a whistling shot from the right wing that hit the far post and banged in at 8:43.
Niclas Bergfors finished off the decisive period by scoring his 21st of the season.
Hedberg, who picked up his 13th career shutout, wasn't tested much in the first two periods. The Canes were more aggressive in the third, unloading 19 shots on net, but Hedberg turned back everything.
The Canes plan to start Cam Ward in goal Monday in Atlanta. Ward, back on the bench Saturday as the backup, has been out since Feb. 3 with a back problem.
"This was a big home-and-home, I thought," Staal said. "If we could beat them both these games we'd be one point behind them and you never know. But they seemed to have a little more desperation than we did."
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