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Sergei Samsonov scores twice to lead Canes past Atlanta, 3-1

RALEIGH, N.C. - Sergei Samsonov's backhanders kept the Carolina Hurricanes moving forward under new coach Paul Maurice.

Samsonov scored two goals with his backhand and added an assist to lead Carolina past the Atlanta Thrashers, 3-1 on Wednesday night.

Joe Corvo also scored after Samsonov snapped out of a two-goals-in-10-games slump for the Hurricanes. They have won five of eight while picking up points in nine of the 13 games they skated in the month since Maurice began his second stint as their coach.

"We're still on the bench kind of deciding where to turn the screws, because it's January, not September," Maurice said. "We're still trying to find our way with this team because of where we are in the season, but I think we're pretty pleased overall. December, I think, was fruitful. We probably played a little better than our record, but we also played a lot of playoff teams."

Atlanta probably won't be among them. Ilya Kovalchuk scored to end the longest goal drought of his career, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots, but they couldn't prevent the Thrashers from losing their fourth straight.

The NHL's second-worst team is 5-14-3 since capping a franchise-record-tying five-game winning streak with a mid-November home-and-home sweep of the Hurricanes.

"It's a loss," Thrashers coach John Anderson said. "We try to do things, and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work."

Cam Ward made 20 saves - and stopped the final 18 shots he faced - behind a defence that had its forechecking unit clicking and didn't allow many quality scoring chances.

"Early on in the season, we seemed to be giving up a lot of (odd-man rushes)," Ward said. "Now, we're going consistently, each and every game, not giving up many. Obviously, that's an improvement - simplifying it in our own zone, making it easy on everybody else and communicating."

Samsonov set up the sequence that produced his go-ahead goal late in the second period by taking the puck off Atlanta defenceman Zach Bogosian's stick in the corner. The Hurricanes kept it in the zone, Tuomo Ruutu sent a wrist shot off Lehtonen's pads and Samsonov swooped across to backhand the rebound past the sprawling goalie to make it 2-1.

Corvo then made it a two-goal game when he scored on a power play midway through the third, skating down the right side and blasting the puck past Lehtonen.

"There were a couple of bad bounces," Anderson said. "We had a turnover on the second goal. The third goal was a misread with Corvo coming down too fast. We made changes. We tried some different things. We cut our shots way back, but the result is the same - whether you lose by 10 or two or one, it doesn't really matter."

Earlier, Samsonov tied it with 24.8 seconds left in the first period when he beat Lehtonen with a falling-down backhand from point-blank range that sneaked under the crossbar.

"I was really close to the goal, and I just tried to buy as much time as I could and keep going past the net and see if I could get the hole," Samsonov said. "I ended up having just enough time to do that."

That came after Kovalchuk - who hadn't scored a goal in nine games - put the Thrashers up 1-0 midway through the first on the second shot they put on Ward. With Ruutu 39 seconds into a charging minor, Bryan Little dropped the puck to Kovalchuk, and he skated into the left circle before whipping a hard wrist shot past Ward for his 12th goal but first since Dec. 12 against Boston.

"We lose again, so it really doesn't do anything," Kovalchuk said.

Notes: Kovalchuk's goal was Atlanta's seventh in five games on the power play. ... Carolina D Frantisek Kaberle, who cleared waivers earlier in the week, remained in the lineup because D Niclas Wallin was out with an ankle injury. ... Little went without a goal for the first time in five games, yet extended his points streak to five. ... Carolina C Eric Staal had an assist, giving him 38 points in 34 games against Atlanta - his most against any opponent.


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