Anton Babchuk scored 1:11 into overtime to help the Hurricanes win their first game at home, beating Southeast Division leader Atlanta 5-4 on Wednesday night. Two of Atlanta’s three losses have come against Carolina, including its last loss on Oct. 13. Since then Atlanta had won four straight. It also was Atlanta’s first loss on the road.
“Wins are important right now and obviously when they are in your conference, or even better so in your division, it’s a bonus,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was an important third period for us and an important overtime to come out and play better than we did in the second period and our guys responded.”
Babchuk took a cross-ice pass from Justin Williams and beat Atlanta goalkeeper Kari Lehtonen with a nifty backhand shot for his first goal of the season.
“If he had stayed in the net I probably wouldn’t have shot it,” Babchuk said. “But he stepped in front of me and I didn’t have a big angle to shoot it and so I tried a different move. You always play ‘D’ first but if you have open ice you can jump in and help. I just had an opportunity to make a play.”
The Hurricanes fell behind 1-0 as Eric Boulton scored 3:14 into the game when he netted a tip-in. Carolina rallied and scored the next three goals to take a 3-1 lead at the end of the first period as Eric Staal, Scott Walker and Andrew Hutchinson scored.
Atlanta tied the game in the second period, as the Thrashers took 22 shots.
“We could have scored more goals in the second period but it was a great showdown between two great young goalies, and it was a solid game on both sides,” Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said.
Jon Sim stole a pass from Carolina’s Bret Hedican at the Hurricanes’ blue-line and scored at 11:31.
Then at 17:21, Scott Mellanby scored on a tip-in from the right post as the puck bounced over Cam Ward’s pads.
“It’s a good thing Cam was in there or we might have been in trouble,” Staal said. “Cam played great. We had to get back to the way we played in the first (period).”
Ryan Bayda’s first goal of the season didn’t stand up for the Hurricanes, whose 4-3 lead in the third period was short-lived.
Ilya Kovalchuk, who extended his goal-scoring streak to three games, tied the game at 4-all when he deflected a shot in the slot from Vitaly Vishnevski with 11:39 left.
“You tend to keep (Kovalchuk) in the corner of your eye,” Ward said. “I look at him and you have to be aware of where he is on the ice.”
Kovalchuk has scored five goals in the last three games. Walker hit the post from point-blank range with three minutes left, missing a chance to give Carolina the lead.
Atlanta’s Marian Hossa took a hooking penalty with just over 2 minutes left in regulation but Carolina, which was 1-for-6 on the power play, was not able to convert.
Atlanta was 0-of-4 on the power play. Ward finished with 32 saves against 36 shots, while Lehtonen stopped 33 of 38 shots.
Notes: Walker reached 300 career points with a goal and an assist. Atlanta LW Kovalchuk has scored a point in five straight games.