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Atlanta Thrashers 5, Carolina Hurricanes 2 FINAL

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Randy Robitaille and Daniel Tjarnqvist helped the Atlanta Thrashers earn their first win of 2004.

Robitaille scored two power-play goals off assists from Ilya Kovalchuk to lift the Thrashers past the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 on Sunday.

Tjarnqvist had a big third period, scoring a short-handed goal with Carolina on a five-on-three power play and making a key defensive play that preserved Atlanta's lead.

Zdenek Blatny added a second-period goal and Kovalchuk had an empty-net score for the Thrashers, who snapped a nine-game winless streak. Atlanta came in 0-5-1 in January and had not won since beating Tampa Bay 3-1 on Dec. 26.

"To us, it's the playoffs," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "We can already say there's going to be a 10- or 11-team race for that final playoff spot. Two points is huge."

The Hurricanes beat the Thrashers 4-3 in Atlanta on Friday, but Atlanta avenged the loss by scoring 35 seconds into the game and going ahead to stay with two second-period goals. In addition, the Thrashers went 2-for-7 on the power play after going 3-for-36 in their last nine games.

"There's nothing real fancy about our game right now," Robitaille said. "We had to scratch and claw and get a victory anyway we can, and we did tonight."

Rookie Eric Staal had a short-handed goal, and Aaron Ward scored a power-play goal for Carolina.

With the teams tied at 1 after the first, Blatny scored an unassisted goal 2:29 into the second when he beat Kevin Weekes from between the circles. Danny Markov was whistled for a high-sticking penalty on the goal, giving Atlanta the man advantage.

The Thrashers took advantage. Kovalchuk missed the net with a shot from the left side, but Robitaille grabbed the puck as it bounced off the boards and beat Weekes from the right side at 4:34 for a 3-1 lead.

Ward's power-play goal in the second closed the gap to 3-2 entering the final period, setting the stage for Tjarnqvist.

On a Carolina power play, Jeff O'Neill fired a shot at Pasi Nurminen from the right side. The puck bounced off the goaltender and skidded toward the net, but Tjarnqvist stopped it with his stick just short of the line.

Then, with the Hurricanes on a two-man advantage, Tjarnqvist got his stick between a pass from Sean Hill to O'Neill, knocking the puck toward the Carolina zone. He chased it down and beat Weekes from the left side at 7:39 of the period.

"It feels really good because most of the time, it goes the other way," Tjarnqvist said.

It was a momentum-killer for the Hurricanes, who lost three of four games against division rivals in the last nine days.

"That's unexplainable, giving up a five-on-three goal," O'Neill said. "Stupid things happen. It seems to always happen at a crucial time for us, or mental errors are just killing us."

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