RALEIGH, N.C. - Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice saw a big opportunity going into Saturday night's home game with the Atlanta Thrashers, since his team could reach eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a win.
It took a little extra time, but the Hurricanes got it done.
Erik Cole took the puck all the way down the ice and scored on a hard shot from the right circle at 2:48 of overtime, giving the Hurricanes a 4-3 win and snapping their two-game losing streak.
Carolina is 3-0-0 against Atlanta this season, with all three wins after regulation.
The teams are tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference at 58 points.
"I actually almost turned it over behind our net," Cole said of the winner. "I was able to get up some speed and got across the line and was trying to shoot it between the defenceman's legs and hope it was on net. Fortunately it went in."
Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward stopped 34 shots and Atlanta's Ondrej Pavelec made 33 saves.
Eric Staal, Brandon Sutter and Jiri Tlusty also scored for Carolina.
"Erik made a good, strong play all the way down the ice to score that," Maurice said. "We talked about this being a huge game and we won it, so we should enjoy that. We should build off it."
Niclas Bergfors, Brent Sopel and Zach Bogosian tallied for Atlanta.
"Every time we play them now in here we should go to overtime, I guess," Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. "Let Cole race down the ice and score. We just found a way to play a little bit safe, and when you play a little bit safe and allow a good player to come down the ice full speed it's a problem."
Bogosian tied the game at three with 1:24 left in the third with Pavelec pulled for an extra skater.
Tlusty put Carolina ahead 3-2 on a shot in transition from the right circle at 12:42 of the third period, with Patrick Dwyer getting the assist. That goal was 28 seconds after the Thrashers tied it 2-2 on Sopel's unassisted shot from the right point.
Sutter put the Hurricanes ahead 2-1 on a rush at 8:37 of the third period, beating Pavelec over the stick side shoulder from the high slot. Joni Pitkanen had an assist for his 100th point with the franchise.
Atlanta led 1-0 after the first period. The Thrashers took the lead in a delayed-penalty situation at 12:33 on Bergfors' tip-in on the open left side of the crease, with Bryan Little getting the assist.
The Hurricanes were dominant in the second period, outshooting Atlanta 16-9 and tying the score.
Staal made it 1-1 on a power play at 8:16, following his own shot to beat Pavelec from the right side of the crease for his 26th goal of the season.
"It was a pretty up-tempo game that saw some lead changes and good saves and good shots," Staal said. "Fortunately we ended up with the nicest one at the end."
Notes: Ward started his 12th straight game. ... Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen was a scratch for the second straight game with a lower-body injury and is listed day to day. ... Pavelec was assessed a penalty for playing the puck in the restricted zone in the first period.