ATLANTA (AP) -- Jeff O'Neill had been waiting for this sort of game all
O'Neill brightened up a dismal season with his second career hat trick, and
the Carolina Hurricanes rallied for a 4-3 victory over the plummeting Atlanta
Thrashers on Friday night.
O'Neill had only five goals in his first 44 games -- quite a letdown from
previous years. He scored 102 goals the past three seasons and is tied with Pat
Verbeek for fifth on the franchise's career list with 192.
"I'm a goal scorer," O'Neill said. "That's what I'm supposed to do. It's
unfortunate it hasn't happened so far (this season), but hopefully I can keep
He scored his second goal of the night at 8:23 of the second period,
sparking a run of three goals in less than six minutes. Kevyn Adams tied it up
at 13:18, and O'Neill scored the winner just 44 seconds later.
Pavel Brendl passed from behind the net to O'Neill, who flipped a quick
backhander past Thrashers goalie Byron Dafoe.
"Three goals go into the net, and all of a sudden you're a great player,"
O'Neill said. "I try to play the same way every night. ... Some people have
questioned my character and my desire to win."
The Thrashers squandered a 3-1 lead after the first period, extending their
winless streak to nine games (0-7-1-1) despite two goals from All-Star Ilya
"It's getting to the point now where it's panic," Dafoe said. "We've got
to stop the bleeding now. In this league, the games go by so quick. I hope we
all realize that."
The Thrashers came out strong, clearly fired up by the presence of Dany
Heatley at the morning skate.
He took the ice with his teammates for the first time since a preseason car
crash killed teammate Dan Snyder. Heatley is recovering from knee surgery and
expected to return this season.
After O'Neill scored first for the Hurricanes, the Thrashers put together
three straight goals against Kevin Weekes. Two of them were pure brilliance by
He took the puck along the boards, beat three players single-handedly and
lifted a perfectly placed shot over Weekes' left shoulder to put Atlanta up
"I tried to bring some energy and some desire to this game," Kovalchuk
said. "It's my job to score goals."
He increased the lead on the power play with his 24th goal of the season.
After Weekes made a save in front, the Thrashers got the puck back while
Kovalchuk glided to the top of the circle and tapped his stick impatiently. He
took a pass from Frantisek Kaberle and one-timed a 40-footer past Weekes.
The Carolina goalie was on shaky ground again, one night after being yanked
just 31/2 minutes into a game at Tampa Bay. He gave up two goals on the first two
shots of the game in a 5-4 loss to the Lightning.
"We had them on the ropes," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "I thought
Weekes was about to get pulled."
But he bounced back to make 27 saves, including a big glove stop on Shawn
McEachern with about 10 minutes remaining.
"He gave us a chance to win," Adams said of Weekes. "He was able to slam
It helped to finally get some offensive support. The Hurricanes have scored
four goals in consecutive games for the first time this season. They reached
that level just four times in their first 43 games.
"We had to get a victory," Weekes said. "We were in survival mode."