Jeff O'Neill scored two goals and Ron Francis and Gary Roberts each added two assists as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Atlanta Thrashers, 5-1, at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
O'Neill got the Hurricanes on the scoreboard first with his 21st goal of the season just 1:34 into the first period.
With the score tied after one period of play, defenseman Paul Coffey scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal when he tallied his eighth goal of the season on the rush. The goal triggered a four-goal, unanswered outburst from the Hurricanes offense. Carolina has scored five goals in four of the team's last six games.
Francis,with his two assists, extended his points streak to a season-high seven games. With the win, Carolina moved to within one point of the Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
CAROLINA HEAD COACH PAUL MAURICE:
On the Thrashers goal:
“Had there been two (goals), he (Irbe) would not have gone back in...We will give him credit for fighting through it because he looked a little out of place out there. He proved for the most part that the guys tried to pick the game knowing that. But I do think that we suffered for it. We had in my mind full control of the game until that point and then they were seven or eight minutes after that, really half way through the second period where we had just stopped skating and we looked like we were afraid.”
On the game:
“We got some key performances there. I think that Gary Roberts especially….he had seven hits after two periods, five of them in the first. He knew, he could sense it. And he just started banging and played just a great game and I moved him around a little bit to get lines going. And whatever line I took him off, they couldn’t get it going.”
ATLANTA THRASHERS HEAD COACH CURT FRASER:
On the game:
“I thought we played a better game in the game that ended 9-0. But the opportunity was there for us if we would have shot the puck more early on. We suffered from our defense, they’re young, they get caught out there a little late in a shift. They make a mistake out of fatique. This happens a lot to us. We have to get better at recognizing when that puck has be out of the zone, ice it, whatever to carry the play. Because we end up starting to make mistakes and having breakdowns out of fatique and staying out long on a shift.”
We had a lot of guys that were working hard, but we seem to be missing one guy out of each line that just wasn’t giving that extra. If we don’t give 110%, a little extra, we look below average. We have to be at the top of our game, to compete against these hockey clubs. And when we’re not, whether its out of frustration or fatique or whatever, we can not afford to play like that. We’re going to get hurt.”
On Chris McAlpine
“I thought that McAlpine did a terrific job tonight. He is a good addition to our hockey club. We needed somebody to come in and fill in, an experienced guy that is relaxed out there.”
Atlanta 1 0 0--1
Carolina 1 2 2--5
FIRST PERIOD -- Scoring: 1, Carolina, Oneill 21 (Gelinas, Francis),1:34. 2, Atlanta, Stapleton 9 (Buzek), 11:07. Penalties: Kinnear, Atl(slashing), 15:46; Buchberger, Atl (roughing), 17:41.
SECOND PERIOD -- Scoring: 3, Carolina, Coffey 8 (Roberts, Halko), 4:54.4, Carolina, Battaglia 15 (T Westlund), 16:59.
THIRD PERIOD -- Scoring: 5, Carolina, Kapanen 22 (Roberts, Brind'amour),4:49. 6, Carolina, Oneill 22 (power play) (Hill, Francis), 12:05.Penalties: Buchberger, Atl (fighting major), 11:19; Lambert, Atl(roughing), 11:19; Karpa, Car (fighting major), 11:19; Brind'amour, Car(roughing), 11:19; Clark, Atl (boarding), 11:37.
Shots on goal:
Atlanta 2 10 9--21
Carolina 11 9 12--32
Power-play Conversions: Atl - 0 of 0, Car - 1 of 4. Goalies: Atlanta,Rhodes (32 shots, 27 saves; record: 3-9-2). Carolina, Irbe (21, 20;record: 27-23-8). A:11,514. Referees: Degrace, Maguire. Linesmen:Broseker, Sericolo.