Leave it to the Atlanta Thrashers to come out flat once again against the worst team in the league.
Eric Staal celebrated being named captain with his ninth career hat trick, powering the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-2 win over the Thrashers.
Rich Peverley and Colby Armstrong scored for the Thrashers, who let the Hurricanes win for just the fifth time in 24 road games.
“When we stand still (with the puck), we are the easiest team in the league to check,” Atlanta coach John Anderson said. “I didn’t like the way we didn’t control the puck the way we should have.”
Things could not have gone much worse in this one for Atlanta, which was facing the NHL-doormat Hurricanes.
But the team named after a ferocious instrument of death and destruction, which has looked less powerful than a tropical storm and more like beached whale(rs) away from Raleigh this season, took advantage of a pair of defensive Thrashers miscues en route to building a four-goal lead.
“We had a lot of chances tonight, but couldn’t score,” Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk said. “Their special teams was better than ours.”
Just 210 seconds into this one, the same old sleepy Atlanta team showed up as three Thrashers just stood around watching Staal get wide open in the slot. The new Carolina captain did what he does best against Atlanta here, beating netminder Ondrej Pavelec to the back of the net to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.
As if the first parting of the Thrashers red-jerseyed sea wasn’t bad enough, Atlanta’s defense broke down again three minutes later. Sergei Samsonov took advantage of a bit of separation, doubling the advantage with a power play tally at the 6:32 mark of the frame.
And just like that, the Thrashers were down 2-0.
Where have we seen this before?
“We didn’t get out of our zone, Staal passed it off and three guys just watched him go to the net,” Anderson said of the first defensive breakdown. “When you have a guy like Staal, you just can’t be in the general vicinity of him, you have to check him. He’s got a long reach, you take the stick right out of his hand. But three guys just let him waltz to the net, guess what happens?”
Before it was all said and done, Jussi Jokinen and Staal added power play goals while the Thrashers were about as flat as New Coke’s sales on their own “Coca-Cola Power Play.” And the Atlanta penalty kill was, well, road kill.
“I don’t want to use the word, ‘horrific,’ but that’s the first thing that comes to my mind,” Anderson said. “Our power play isn’t generating a lot.”
Naw, coach we’ll stick with horrific, even if you don’t want to.
Carolina capitalized on three of their four chances with an extra attacker while Atlanta finished 0-for-6, mustering just six shots in 12 minutes with the man advantage.
Anderson was so incensed afterward that he publically acknowledged that changes may be a coming.
“Maybe we dumb down (the power play) a bit, take some skill off of it and put some grit in front of the net and pound away,” he said. “I’ll have to take a look at it tomorrow.”
Fortunately, for the team from North Carolina, not much changed.
Staal netted his second hat trick here and has 14 goals and 14 assists in 19 games in “Blueland.” Cam Ward steered aside 32 of 34 shots to improve to 9-3-0 at Philips Arena.
“I don’t know why,” Ward said when asked of his success in an almost always half-full Philips Arena. “It’s not the easiest place to play with all of those dark seats.”
Pavelec stopped 17 shots en route to his first regulation loss since January 2.
Anssi Salmela and Evander Kane recorded assists for the Thrashers, who fell to 6-6-3 when outshooting an opponent.