ATLANTA — Patrick Eaves wasn’t with the Carolina Hurricanes to start the season. Neither was Tuomo Ruutu. Neither was Sergei Samsonov. Jeff Hamilton had been sent to the minors and told to find an apartment, only to end up back with the Canes this week.
Those four all played key roles as the Canes jumped out to a three-goal, first-period lead on the Atlanta Thrashers on their way to a 5-3 win Wednesday night, with rookie Joe Jensen tacking on his first NHL goal in the second period for good measure.
There were nine points awarded on Carolina’s first four goals. Seven of them went to players who have spent less than the full season with the Hurricanes, two to Hamilton for his first multiple-point game since Nov. 3.
One of the other two went to Eric Staal, which is certainly to be expected lately — and in Atlanta in particular. Not counting his MVP performance in January’s All-Star Game, Staal has seven goals and 11 assists in 15 career games at Philips Arena.
And the Canes needed contributions from everyone Wednesday. They may be 13-3-1 in their past 17 games, but this win will not rank among the finest of the group.
Cam Ward made 31 saves, the second-most he has had to make during his string of 13 straight starts, and the Canes gave up two second-period goals on defensive breakdowns to let the Thrashers back into the game.
They’ll have to play better tonight at the Florida Panthers, who have tied a franchise record with a seven-game winning streak and lurk just behind the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division, seven points behind the Canes.
Two goals three minutes apart gave the Canes a 2-0 lead before the first period was half over, with Letowski and Samsonov scoring, and Hamilton was the pivot man on a give-and-go with Staal late in the period that extended Carolina’s lead to three goals.
Then, after the Thrashers scored, early in the second, Hamilton set up Jensen in front with a no-look, behind-the-back pass from behind the net to make it 4-1.
Tornado aftermath has little impact on Thrashers game
ATLANTA — Greg Keith had no trouble driving to Philips Arena on Wednesday night.
Five days after a tornado tore through downtown Atlanta, Keith took his usual seat for an Atlanta Thrashers game.
"I normally take a different route from my home in Kennesaw, but there was no problem doing another way down Northside Drive," said Keith, a 44-year-old Internet technology executive. "It wasn’t a big deal at all."
The Thrashers hosted the first sporting event since the storm cut a six-mile path in the city and left 27 people injured on Friday night. Statewide, two deaths were reported in Northwest Georgia and property damages soared to an estimated $250 million.
Though a tornado swept over the nearby Georgia Dome and caused the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament to move to Georgia Tech over the weekend, nearby Philips Arena was essentially unharmed.
"There was no structural damage to our facility," said arena vice president Trey Feazell. "We had some panels we lost from a transition wall in our lower and our upper levels on the International (Drive) side across from the World Congress Center. Our parking deck, the one they keep showing on TV, had some damage, but we were fortunate to escape structural damage."