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Thrashers waste two two-goal leads in opening loss

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- There's nothing like a game against the
Atlanta Thrashers to make things right for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Joe Vasicek scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period
as the Hurricanes twice rallied from two-goal deficits to beat
Atlanta 5-3 Friday night.

The win came two days after a 4-1 season-opening loss to the New
York Rangers -- a game in which the defending Eastern Conference
champions went 0-for-9 on the power play and were booed by their
home fans.

"This was a good rebound game for us, especially being down
twice,'' forward Rod Brind'Amour said. "We really kept our game
going. I don't think we let off the throttle at all.''

Atlanta dropped its season opener despite leading 2-0 and 3-1
and has never beaten Carolina, dropping to 0-13-3 all-time against
the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Carolina outhit the Thrashers and controlled the puck most of
the night, winning 47 of 67 faceoffs.

"Sometimes that stat doesn't mean a darn thing but tonight it
did,'' said Brind'Amour, who won 17 of 21 draws. "We got a couple
goals off of faceoffs. We are a pretty good faceoff team and it's
nice to get some breaks off them.''

Vasicek hit the game-winner out of the air and past Milan
Hnilicka less then two minutes into the final period. The Atlanta
goaltender had lost sight of the puck after stopping an attempt by
Bret Hedican from a sharp angle.

"I'll take it,'' Vasicek said when told that coach Paul Maurice
called his goal ugly. "Like the guys say in the room, `There's no
picture on the scoresheet.' I'll take the garbage ones.''

Vasicek also added an assist. The third-year player had just
three two-point games last season.

Brind'Amour's second goal in as many games, with 5:17 left,
sealed it for the Hurricanes.

Carolina trailed 2-0 after one period, but got goals from Erik
Cole, Ron Francis and Sean Hill in a span of 8½ minutes to head to
the third tied 3-3.

"Every man did his part tonight,'' goaltender Kevin Weekes
said. "We kind of lost the first battle in the first period but we
ended up coming back and winning the war. We were very resilient
tonight.''

The goal by Francis was the 515th of his career, moving him
within three of Dale Hawerchuk for 24th on the all-time NHL list.

Atlanta's second-period goal came from former Buffalo defenseman
Richard Smehlik, who poked home a rebound after a wild scramble in
front of the net.

The teams combined for 27 shots and 10 minor penalties in a wild
opening period.

Carolina had a chance to get an early jump on Atlanta. However,
the Hurricanes went 0-for-5 with the man advantage in the first 20
minutes, wasting 8:47 of power-play time.

The Hurricanes did outshoot the Thrashers 10-0 in the early
going, but most of the saves weren't too difficult for Hnilicka.

Atlanta didn't get its first shot until there was 8:04 left in
the period, but that led to a barrage of 12 straight on Weekes, who
made several top-notch saves before the Thrashers broke through.

Vyacheslav Kozolv, one of Atlanta's offseason veteran
acquisitions, put Atlanta up 1-0 when he kept the puck on a 2-on-1
break and beat Weekes between the legs with 2:50 left in the
period.

The Thrashers went up 2-0 when Ilya Kovalchuk batted home a
rebound with 2.7 seconds remaining as he fought his way around
defenseman Aaron Ward to beat a sprawling Weekes.

"We were real good for the first half of the game,'' Atlanta
coach Curt Fraser said. "Then we took a step back and
scrambled.''

Game notes
Carolina D Glen Wesley sat out with a groin injury. He's
listed as day-to-day. ... The Hurricanes snapped a seven-game
losing streak at the RBC Center dating to Game 5 of last year's
Eastern Conference finals against Toronto. ... Atlanta beat
Carolina twice in the preseason, both by 4-1 scores.