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Hurricanes 4, Thrashers 3 @NHLdotcom

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Overshadowed a bit this season by linemate Eric Staal, Cory Stillman is doing his best to change that.

Not that it matters to him.

"Our line, when we play together and play well, we produce points and help our team win," Stillman said. "When our team's winning, obviously everybody's going to have points."

The veteran left wing had two goals and two assists to run his point streak to nine games, and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 Wednesday night.

Staal, who assisted on one of Stillman's goals to snap a run of three straight scoreless games, leads Carolina with 52 points. Stillman now has 42.

"I just continue to play," Stillman said. "It was a big game for us. It shows what we have in the dressing room to come back to tie the game and to win the game."

Andrew Hutchinson and Erik Cole, the other member of the Staal-Stillman line, also scored for the Hurricanes, who won at home for the first time in three games against Atlanta this season. The Thrashers won the first two by a combined score of 14-2, and it appeared they were headed for another easy victory with three consecutive goals.

"Everything was going our way," Atlanta's Marian Hossa said.

Ilya Kovalchuk had two goals on the power play and Jim Slater got the other at even-strength to help Atlanta take a 3-1 lead. Kovalchuk's second came on a 5-on-3 after Carolina's Chad LaRose got 17 minutes in penalties for going after Karl Stewart.

Seconds earlier, Stewart leveled Matt Cullen in the neutral zone with a vicious but clean hit, and LaRose took exception. He immediately dropped his stick and gloves, then left Stewart bloodied after a brief encounter.

"It sparked me," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "I was inspired by it. Rosie's not a very big guy, and Matt's a very big part of our team. The fact he went and immediately stuck up for a teammate speaks volumes about Rosie, as well as the group itself."

Kovalchuk took advantage and beat Martin Gerber short-side, but that was the final goal allowed by Gerber. He finished with 23 saves to help the Hurricanes increase their lead in the Southeast Division to nine points over Tampa Bay.

"They all seem to be big games," Laviolette said. "We've just got to keep winning, it doesn't matter who the opponent is. We've got to keep our foot on the gas."

Hutchinson cut the lead to 3-2 on the man-advantage with his second goal of the season, and Stillman got a lucky one about 90 seconds later when his pass ricocheted off a stick and bounced off goalie Kari Lehtonen's glove into the net.

"You talk about weird goals," Stillman said. "That's a first right there."

Carolina got the lead back after he tipped in a slap shot by Cullen, who returned soon after the jarring check in the second period. That also came on the power play, and the Hurricanes survived the final 12 1/2 minutes behind Gerber and some solid defense.

"Toward the end, we got a couple of good chances, but we couldn't get the equalizer," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "He came up with some good saves. There was not much room out there."

Stillman helped give Carolina a 1-0 lead with a nifty pass to Cole. He sent the puck off the boards and led his teammate perfectly, and Cole skated past defenseman Andy Sutton before beating Lehtonen.

Notes: Atlanta C Marc Savard was jolted with a check against the boards from Craig Adams early in the third period, but stayed in the game. ... Stillman was last held without a point Dec. 13 against Chicago. ... Before the game, the Thrashers activated G Steve Shields and assigned him to Chicago of the AHL for conditioning. He injured his knee against the New York Rangers on Nov. 24.

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