ATLANTA (AP) -- Cam Ward flopped all over the ice, blocking
nearly every shot that came his way.
Then there was Kari Lehtonen, who had trouble stopping anything.
Talk about a contrast in the nets.
Ward made 40 saves for Carolina, while Lehtonen was yanked in
the second period of the Hurricanes' 5-2 win over the Atlanta
Thrashers on Wednesday night. The Atlanta goalie stopped only nine
of 13 shots.
"Cam made some really tough saves," coach Peter Laviolette
said. "A lot of them seemed headed for the net, but all sudden
there was a toe, a pad, a shoulder to get in the way. He was
extremely sharp, extremely focused."
Whitney's second goal gave Carolina a 4-1 lead and prompted
Thrashers coach Bob Hartley to yank Lehtonen with 4:51 left in the
"This game was definitely played in the nets," Hartley said.
"Cam Ward was the best player on the ice."
Johan Hedberg went the rest of the way in the Atlanta nets and
was barely tested, facing just four shots while Ward was sprawling
all over the ice at the other end.
"When you make some saves, especially early, it always helps,"
said Ward, the unlikely star of Carolina's run to the Stanley Cup
championship last season. "I knew I had to get better at stopping
the first five shots so we wouldn't get down early. I felt relaxed.
I felt calm. Anytime you feel like that, you know it's going to be
a good night."
Ward blocked the first five and just kept right on going.
Marian Hossa picked up his NHL-leading 11th goal and 500th
career point on a power play but could have a much bigger game if
not for Ward. Atlanta's top scorer had a career-high 16 shots on
goal -- nearly as many as the Hurricanes' entire team and six more
than his previous best.
Ilya Kovalchuk redirected a shot from the point early in the
third but Ward still managed to smother it, prompting Kovalchuk to
look toward the roof in disgust.
The Thrashers went 1-for-10 on the power play, failing to
convert a lengthy two-man advantage late in the second.
"The power play was playing like five individuals and not a
five-man unit," Atlanta's Greg de Vries said.
Carolina has won all three meetings between the Southeast
Division rivals this season. The first two were much closer, with
Carolina winning 4-3 on a goal in the last second of regulation,
then prevailing 5-4 in overtime.
This time, the Hurricanes didn't need a dramatic goal at the
end. Their top line of Whitney, Brind'Amour and Erik Cole was
especially dominant, accounting for all but one of the goals.
Carolina is starting to play like a champion, picking up six
wins and an overtime loss in its last nine games after getting off
to an 0-3-1 start.
Whitney and Scott Walker scored 40 seconds apart in the first
period. After Hossa pulled the Thrashers within a goal at 3:58 of
the second, Brind'Amour and Whitney gave the Hurricanes a
During a delayed penalty against Atlanta, Cole worked hard to
keep the puck in behind the net, then Whitney picked it up and
whipped a pass to Brind'Amour in front. He fired a shot into the
top right corner over Lehtonen's glove.
Then, after Carolina killed off a penalty, Whitney cut in front
of the net and ripped a low shot that got by Lehtonen's right
skate. That was it for Atlanta's starting goalie, who took a seat
at the end of the bench.
"That's just the way it sometimes goes," Lehtonen said. "I
didn't think they were good shots. They shouldn't have gone in."
Vitaly Vishnevski gave Atlanta a faint hope, scoring a
backhander that deflected off a Carolina player's stick with 12½
minutes left. But Brind'Amour scored an empty-netter with 1:26
Atlanta has lost two straight games in regulation for the
first time this season. ... Eight of Hossa's 11 goals have come on
the power play. ... Thrashers D Niclas Havelid and Carolina D Tim
Gleason both sat out their first game of the season. ... Atlanta
got chippy in the final minute. Scott Mellanby received a 10-minute
misconduct, then J.P. Vigier of the Thrashers and Carolina's Craig
Adams got into a brief fight along the boards before the linesmen
jumped in quickly to keep things from spiraling out of control.