Twenty minutes of good hockey was all the Atlanta Thrashers needed Friday night.
Now they’d like to see what would happen if they put together 60.
Rich Peverley scored the fourth of Atlanta’s five third-period goals with 6:03 remaining to help the Thrashers rally for a 6-4 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night. Atlanta is 6-1-3 in its last 10 games.
“I think we can still get better,” said Bryan Little, who had two assists and set up Peverley’s winner. “We only played one period tonight – the third. Once we get that figured out, and once we play a full 60 minutes, we’re going to be even more dangerous.”
Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and an assist, Evander Kane, Slava Kozlov, Marty Reasoner and Maxim Afinogenov also scored, and Tobias Enstrom had three assists for the Thrashers. Ondrej Pavelec made 32 saves.
Erik Cole had a goal and an assist, and Sergei Samsonov, Matt Cullen and Stephane Yelle also scored for the Hurricanes. Carolina had won three in a row at home before blowing a 4-1 third-period lead against the Thrashers.
Manny Legace made 28 saves against the team that cut him during training camp.
“This is a tough one – really tough,” Carolina’s Tom Kostopoulos said. “I think we kind of thought we had it and already had the two points on the board.”
On a seemingly harmless rush, Little passed the puck back to Peverley, who found open space and snapped it over Legace’s shoulder for the winner.
“It was a quick 3-on-2, but Bryan Little made a great pass to know that I was coming back late,” Peverley said. “I was able to walk the net because Evander Kane drove the net and opened up space for me.”
Atlanta had scored three goals in 2:39 span to tie it at 4.
Kozlov first took advantage of some lax Carolina defence and a nice pass from Little to make it 4-2. Enstrom then set up Kovalchuk with a deft pass from the slot, allowing Kovalchuk to wrist the puck past Legace from a sharp angle. Kovalchuk has 14 points in his last eight games.
Kovalchuk had an instrumental role in Afinogenov’s goal that tied the score. After he crossed the blue line, Kovalchuk held the puck to draw the Carolina defence. He then passed it to Afinogenov, who charged the net and beat Legace between the legs on the backhand. Reasoner capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 1:03 remaining.
“All of the sudden, we kept scoring,” Little said. “We know we have a good enough and a skilled-enough team to come back when we’re down a few goals.”
Carolina had a promising start.
Eric Staal won a faceoff in the Atlanta zone to Gleason, who shot the puck at Pavelec. The rebound came out to Cole, who backhanded it through Pavelec’s legs 8:11 into the game. The Hurricanes made it 2-0 in the second period when Yelle stole the puck from Pavelec behind the net. Yelle then beat Pavelec to the far post and jammed the puck into the open net.
Kane brought the Thrashers within one midway through the second period when he deflected Tobias Enstrom’s pass through Legace’s legs.
The Hurricanes quickly built the lead back to two on goals by Samsonov and Cullen.
Adding to Carolina’s misery was the fact that defenceman Joni Pitkanen sustained an upper-body injury and didn’t play in the third period.
“Maybe they felt it was a nice comfortable game,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “They were getting lots of chances and then decided the back half of the game wasn’t too important to them in the third.”
NOTES: Carolina F Tuomo Ruutu returned after missing one game because of a lower-body injury. … Carolina had a goal disallowed in the first because Ruutu kicked the puck into the net. … Pavelec made 40 saves in his previous outing, a 2-0 victory in Detroit on Wednesday night.