After a franchise-record comeback victory, the Carolina Hurricanes hope that momentum can help them extend a pair of winning streaks against the struggling Atlanta Thrashers as the Southeast Division rivals meet Saturday at the RBC Center.
The Hurricanes (24-18-4) have taken all three meetings with the Thrashers (24-14-8) this season, outscoring them 14-9. A victory will help the defending Stanley Cup champions close the four-point gap with Atlanta, which leads the Southeast with 56 points.
Carolina matched a franchise record with six third-period goals to overcome a three-goal deficit in a 6-4 victory over Florida on Thursday for its third consecutive win.
"The whole team was in here (during the second intermission) and we knew what we had to do," center Chad LaRose said. "It wasn't any of the coaches. It was our leaders stepping in and letting us know what we had to get done. We had to dig a little bit deeper."
The historic comeback was punctuated with five goals in the first 10:02 of the final period after the Hurricanes were outshot 31-14 the first two. Ray Whitney capped the scoring with an empty net goal with 13 seconds left to match the franchise record set against Toronto on Dec. 27, 1981, when the team was the Hartford Whalers.
"Lousy two. Good one," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "We're capable of beating anybody in the league, and we're capable of a third period like that, and we don't compete very hard in the first two."
Carolina leads the NHL with 60 third-period goals, although it is only 2-15-2 when trailing at the start of the final period. The team is 16-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes and has 78 combined goals in the first two periods.
Rod Brind'Amour had three assists on Thursday to give him five in the last three games. The captain leads the team in assists (37) and points (50) after getting 39 and 70, respectively, in 78 games last season.
Brind'Amour is the club's all-time leader with 39 points in 33 games against Atlanta, which is hoping to avoid a season-high six-game losing streak after a third-period collapse Friday.
The Thrashers allowed power-play goals by Scott Gomez and Sergei Brylin only 28 seconds apart in the third period to lose 2-1 at New Jersey.
"New Jersey doesn't make too many mistakes and they have a good power play," Thrashers goaltender Kari Lehtonen said. "We had been doing a very good job against them but the third period was pretty bad for us with the penalties."
Atlanta has been outscored 19-10 during its losing streak, the team's longest since a seven-game slide from Jan. 19-Feb. 3, 2006. The Thrashers have struggled with special teams play during their losing streak, converting just 2 of 25 (8.0 percent) chances on the power play while allowing eight power-play goals.
Lehtonen has struggled in his last four starts, losing all of them on the road with a 3.50 goals-against average. The Finn has not fared well against the Hurricanes either, losing all three starts against them this season with a 5.00 GAA. His only career win against them came in a 33-save performance in a 5-2 victory on April 1 at Atlanta.
Atlanta has won four of its last nine games at Carolina after losing eight and tying one in the first nine after entering the league in 1999.