ATLANTA – Cam Ward has a history of impressive performances in Atlanta.
His latest win at Philips Arena may be his most impressive yet.
Ward stopped 45 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes earned their second straight comeback win, beating the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 on Sergei Samsonov’s decisive shot in the third round of a shootout Thursday night.
Ward is 11-3 at Philips Arena, according to STATS, LLC, and 16-8-2 overall against the Thrashers.
“For whatever reason, I always feel comfortable in this building,” Ward said, adding he can’t explain his mastery of the Thrashers in Atlanta.
One night after Ward was pulled after giving up three early goals before Carolina’s comeback for a 4-3 win at Florida, the Hurricanes again played from behind after trailing 2-0 through two periods. This time, Ward remained in net for the win as Brandon Sutter and Eric Staal had third-period goals.
“Obviously, I was disappointed,” Ward said of his early exit at Florida. “But it’s a lot easier to get over it when the team comes back like this.”
The Thrashers lost their second straight—both in shootouts—and were stopped in their bid to pull even with Washington for the lead in the tight Southeast Division.
Chris Mason stopped 27 shots for Atlanta.
“It’s definitely disappointing when you’re up two goals and let them come back,” Mason said. “Kudos to them. They played well.”
The Thrashers lost despite having a 47-29 advantage in shots on goal.
“We win more, I guess, when we get outshot,” said Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay. “We took the puck, threw it at the net. We did the things we’re supposed to do.”
But the Hurricanes had Ward blocking most of Atlanta’s barrage of shots.
“Clearly, our best player was in the nets,” said Carolina coach Paul Maurice.
“When you’re faced with adversity on the road and come back in the third period in back-to-back games, that’s great.”
Jussi Jokinen also scored in the shootout for Carolina. Nik Antropov scored in the first round of the shootout for Atlanta before Ward blocked shots by Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien.
Evander Kane and Anthony Stewart each had a goal and an assist in the second period to give Atlanta a 2-0 lead. Carolina pulled even with goals by Sutter and Staal in the first six minutes of the third.
Following a scoreless opening period, the Thrashers appeared to score on a shot by Tobias Enstrom on a power play midway through the second period. The goal was disallowed after officials ruled Atlanta’s Antropov was in the crease.
Only 10 seconds later, Kane scored on Stewart’s assist for the 1-0 lead late in the power play. Stewart added to the lead when he won a battle at the net and scored with 1:04 remaining in the period.
Trailing 2-0, the Hurricanes scored their first goal only 26 seconds into the third. Mason blocked a shot by Jamie McBain before Sutter pushed the deflection past Mason’s stick for the goal.
Staal scored from the left circle exactly six minutes into the third period shortly after Ward’s save on the other end of the ice on a shot by Kane.
“Tonight was big for us,” Staal said.
“You don’t want to get behind, especially on the road. It’s encouraging what we did the last two games.”
Ramsay said the Thrashers lost their edge when Carolina came out strong in the third period.
“For half of that third period we looked tentative,” Ramsay said. “And they charged. That’s a pretty good team and pretty good defence. They started jumping up the ice. … But more importantly, we just lost some battles in our own zone.”
Notes: The division rivals met for the first time. The teams split six games last season, with the visitor winning every game. … Carolina completed a 3-1-1 road trip. … Ward, who started his ninth consecutive game, improved to 3-3 in shootouts. … Mason is 1-1 in shootouts with Atlanta’s only win.