ATLANTA — Eric Staal scored three goals in his first game since becoming Carolina's captain and the Hurricanes beat the Atlanta Thrashers 5-2 on Thursday night for a rare road victory.
Cam Ward stopped 32 shots to tie Arturs Irbe's franchise record with 130 career wins.
The Hurricanes were last in the NHL with 35 points and had lost three straight when Staal took over as captain Wednesday for Rod Brind'Amour.
Staal didn't take long to show his leadership on the ice. The 25-year-old All-Star center scored on a pass from Jussi Jokinen to open the scoring 3:31 into the game.
The Hurricanes stretched the lead to 4-0 with power-play goals by Sergei Samsonov, Jokinen and Staal.
The Hurricanes took only their fifth win in 24 road games.
Jokinen was awarded his goal after an officials' review showed the puck crossed the line before it was kicked out of the net by Ron Hainsey.
The goals by Jokinen and Staal in the first 3 minutes of the second period left the Hurricanes 3 for 3 on the power play.
Staal's third goal came with 44 seconds remaining in the third period after the Thrashers pulled goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 16 shots.
Rich Peverley scored an unassisted goal for Atlanta 13:30 into the second period. Colby Armstrong added a tip-in with 8:12 remaining in the third period.
The Thrashers were stopped in each of their four chances with a man advantage in the third period, leaving them 0 for 6 for the game.
Staal will represent Canada in the Olympics. General manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday Staal "is the player around whom the team will be structured."
The 39-year-old Brind'Amour had been the captain since 2005. He was demoted to alternate captain.
NOTES: Carolina took its first win in the season series following two home losses to Atlanta. ... The Thrashers have been outscored 51-35 in the first period. ... Samsonov played in his second game after missing seven games with an upper-body injury. ... Ward started his 19th straight game. He improved to 9-3 at Philips Arena.