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New "Captain Carolina" Nets Hat Trick in Debut: Hurricanes 5, Thrashers 2

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New team captain Eric Staal scored early and often as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday night by a score of 5-2, at Philips Arena.  Staal opened the scoring when he received a perfect pass from Jussi Jokinen, then closed the scoring on an empty netter after he was set up by Ray Whitney.

Cam Ward earned the win as he made 32 saves on 34 shots and tied the Carolina/Hartford franchise record for most wins by a goalie as he won number 130.  He will pass Arturs Irbe with his next win.

Special teams had a special night as the powerplay went 3-4 and the penalty kill did not allow a powerplay goal as the Thrashers went 0-6 when they had the advantage.

The Hurricanes came out with a lot of jump and out-played the Thrashers early.  Just three minutes and change into the game, Jokinen found Staal skating toward the net and led him with a pass.  Staal tipped it in to give the visitors the early lead.

Just three minutes later, the Canes drew a penalty and moved the puck with purpose while with the man advantage.  Sergei Samsonov found a loose puck in the slot area and shot it past goalie Ondrej Pavelec to make the score 2-0. 

The Canes opened the second period with another 59 seconds of powerplay time.  Jussi Jokinen had a premium chance close to the net which was originally ruled "no goal" on the ice.  But after a long delay for a review, it was ruled to be a goal and the score was 3-0. 

At 2:19 of the period, Staal would score again on a bullet of a shot, again off of a nice pass from Jokinen. 

Atlanta scored before the end of the second period to make the score, 4-1.  They would score again midway through the third, but Cam Ward and the defense battled the rest of the way to keep the home team off the board. 

When Atlanta pulled the goalie near the end, Ray Whitney controlled the puck along the boards and fed Staal, who fought through a defender to rip in the empty netter for his 10th  9th career hat trick. 

The win broke a three game losing streak for Carolina as they travel to Philadelphia for a matinee on Saturday.

Game Notes:

  • Staal was a dominating force on offense as he had 8 of Carolina's 22 shots on goal for the game.  The next highest total for a player was two.
  • Jussi Jokinen looked great on the first line and finished with a goal and two assists.  Whitney also had two assists for the visitors.  (It bears repeating.  It's still hard to believe Jokinen is not good enough to make Team Finland.)
  • Cam Ward was solid is net and made several top-notch saves.  He tied the franchise record having played 50 fewer games than Irbe.
  • Aaron Ward and Brett Carson had five blocked shots each as the team had a total of 19.
  • Brandon Sutter and Matt Cullen each led the Canes with two takeaways.  Sutter broke up play after play while killing penalties. 
  • The team had a season low seven hits.  Niclas Wallin led the way with two.
  • Sutter also led the team with the best faceoff percentage as he won 10 of 15 draws for 67%.