for this game

Whitney's last-second goal lifts Hurricanes to first win

Oct 14, 2006 - 2:26 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Carolina Hurricanes finally resembled a Stanley Cup champion.

Ray Whitney scored with one-half of a second remaining to lift the Hurricanes to a thrilling 4-3 triumph over the Atlanta Thrashers.

It was the first victory this season for Carolina, which stormed to its first Stanley Cup title less than four months ago. The defending champs struggled mightily in losing their first four games this season but pulled out a gritty win Friday after squandering an early three-goal lead.

"Friday the 13th is supposed to be unlucky, but maybe it's a reverse effect for us," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought tonight was the best game that we competed since the start of training camp."

With time running down and the score tied, 3-3, Carolina's Eric Staal took a feed from captain Rod Brind'Amour and flicked a weak shot towards the net from near the right corner.

Thrashers goaltender Kari Lehtonen appeared to deflect the puck into the slot, right to the streaking Whitney. With no defenders in sight, Whitney easily stuffed the puck between Lehtonen's pads to seal the Hurricanes' inaugural win of the campaign.

"It's good to get the monkey off our back," Whitney said. "It got to my stick and I took a whack at it. It was a fortunate goal and this team needed it. (Lehtonen is) a big guy. He was square to me. It was a desperation play, a wobbler that went up and down. That's about as late in the game as you can get."

"It was a lucky goal, but it was a good shot," Lehtonen said. "We have to learn from that. Hopefully, that won't happen again. It's a 60-minute game. He hit it before it ended."

Despite being disappointed with his overall performance in the contest, Whitney was happy to deliver the crucial goal for his struggling club.

"That was one of the worst games I've played in a long time," Whitney said. "It got a little bit better in the second half, but it was terrible tonight. But I got that opportunity late."

Reigning Conn Smythe Award winner Cam Ward made 31 saves for Carolina, which had managed just seven goals in its first four games.

Lehtonen, who entered with a sparkling .971 save percentage, rebounded from a poor start to stop 29 shots.

"Tonight was definitely a tough way to lose a game," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "After not being there the first 20 minutes, we really controlled the last forty minus point-five seconds."

Craig Adams tallied twice in the opening period and Staal also scored on a breakaway at 19:58 of the first session to give Carolina a 3-0 lead heading into the intermission.

"It's always nice to score," Adams said. "To get this win was really big for our team. We didn't want to dig ourselves into too much of a hole. We still have a ways to go, but it was real nice to get this one."

But Atlanta, which entered with a 3-0-1 record, stormed back to forge a 3-3 tie. Jon Sim scored twice over a span of 22 seconds in the middle session and Bobby Holik tallied with 5:21 left in the third to complete the comeback.

"It's always disappointing when you come back and they get a bad goal," said Thrashers star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who has yet to score in the first five games this season. "I think we deserved to win this game, but we can't play this way in the first period."

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