Kapanen snapped a 2-2 tie with his team-leading 15th goal off a perfect give-and-go feed from Ron Francis at 6:08 of the third period.
Kapanen skated down the right wing, drawing a pair of defenders before leaving a drop pass for Francis in the slot. Francis, who gave Carolina a 2-1 lead with a second-period goal, found Kapanen just to the left of the crease for an easy one-timer that put the Hurricanes ahead to stay.
"We tried it in the second period but weren't able to score," Kapanen said of the play. "It's a play where we try to use my speed a little bit. I go to the middle and drop it to Ronnie and either get a rebound if he shoots or a pass. It happens a lot of times on that kind of play where the (defensemen) aren't talking. It's a hard play and Ronnie made a good pass."
"We tried it earlier, but this one worked," Francis added. "Sami made a good play, he kind of hesitated and froze the defense on that side. I knew what he was doing and once he dropped it to me, he did a great job of sliding between them and getting himself back open."
Kron was the beneficiary of a favorable bounce off the right post as his slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle deflected in, beating rookie goaltender Scott Fankhouser
"We generated some pretty good offense tonight and got some pretty good chances to score," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "I thought we played very well in the third period and didn't give up many chances while finding a way to turn it up."
Arturs Irbe stopped 24 shots, including just three in the final period as the Hurricanes snapped a four-game road losing streak and improved to 2-0 against the expansion Thrashers.
"It wasn't that good of a start, it was a little rough early on but we got it all together and started the new year on the right foot," Irbe said.
"We haven't been playing very well," Maurice added. "We've played hard, but not particularly well. We've struggled over the long haul, but now we've won two of the last three. We did need this one, it was important."
Fankhouser made 25 saves for Atlanta, which has lost three in a row and is a dismal 1-10-2 over its last 13.
"This game was disappointing," Fankhouser said. "I thought we could have played better. We had an opportunity here and we have to bear down. That third one, I almost had it but it just sort of swept between my legs."
Nelson Emerson and Ray Ferraro scored for the Thrashers, who failed to convert three power-play chances. Atlanta is 0-of-19 on the power play over its last five games and remained tied with the New York Islanders for the least points in the league at 23.
"Everytime we play a team with speed, it gives us all kinds of problems," Atlanta coach Curt Fraser said. "Our defensive zone coverage is causing the problems right now. We get into the third period with a 2-2 tie and we have to find a way to emergize ourselves and win the game. Two terrible mistakes in our zone cost us at least a point."
The Thrashers got off to a great start when Emerson opened the scoring just 35 seconds into play on the game's first shot.
"Fortunately it's a 60-minute game," Irbe said of allowing the fastest goal in Thrashers history. "I misplayed the puck a little bit and it was costly. But it's not how you start, it's how you finish."
The Hurricanes countered with 6:58 remaining in the opening period when Paul Ranheim scored off a feed from Martin Gelinas.
Kapanen set up Francis 4:11 into the second period, giving Carolina a 2-1 lead. The goal was Francis' 10th of the season and he increased his team-leading point total to 32 when he returned the favor to Kapanen in the third for the eventual winning tally.
Ferraro got Atlanta even at 2-2 with 7:16 remaining in the second period when he accepted a feed from Yannick Tremblay and slipped it past Irbe.
-----------------------------Carolina 1 1 2--4Atlanta 1 1 0--2-----------------------------FIRST PERIOD -- Scoring: 1, Atlanta, Emerson 6 (Buchberger, Shannon),0:35. 2, Carolina, Ranheim 4 (Gelinas), 13:02. Penalties: Atlanta bench,served by Emerson (too many men on the ice), 2:57; Buzek, Atl(interference), 7:34; Francis, Car (Obstr tripping), 7:57.SECOND PERIOD -- Scoring: 3, Carolina, Francis 10 (Kapanen, Roberts),4:11. 4, Atlanta, Ferraro 8 (Tremblay, Buzek), 12:44. Penalties: Halko,Car (Obstr tripping), 0:20; Kapanen, Car (roughing), 10:35; Battaglia, Car(roughing), 10:35; Shannon, Atl (roughing), 10:35; Oneill, Car (slashing),13:45; Sylvester, Atl (slashing), 13:45; Botterill, Atl (tripping), 16:58.THIRD PERIOD -- Scoring: 5, Carolina, Kapanen 15 (Francis), 6:08. 6,Carolina, Kron 5 (Ranheim), 8:43. Penalties: E Ward, Atl (high sticking),15:53; Oneill, Car (high sticking), 15:53.Shots on goal:---------------------------------Carolina 14 7 8--29Atlanta 11 12 3--26---------------------------------
Power-play Conversions: Car - 0 of 3, Atl - 0 of 3. Goalies: Carolina, Irbe (26 shots, 24 saves; record: 12-12-0). Atlanta, Fankhouser (29, 25; record: 0-2-1). A:17,642. Referees: Shick, Zelkin. Linesmen: Morin, Orourke.