Game played before smallest crowd in Thrashers' history


ATLANTA (AP) -- Byron Dafoe was thrilled to make it through the
game without any pain. He wasn't so happy about a couple of shots
that got past him.

Dafoe, coming back from a strained right groin, made 36 saves
for Atlanta but also let in a couple of soft goals as the Thrashers
tied the Carolina Hurricanes 3-3 Tuesday night.

Dany Heatley scored two goals for Atlanta, which couldn't hold
leads of 2-0 and 3-2.

"I didn't feel any pain in my groin throughout the entire
game," Dafoe said. "To get that many shots and not have it go out
means I'm over the hump. So, I'm happy with that. As for my
performance tonight, a couple of goals were questionable."

Arturs Irbe had 28 saves for the Hurricanes, including three on
breakaways. Sami Kapanen scored the tying goal with 9:04 left in
the third, deflecting in a shot from the blue line by Aaron Ward.

"I got a little piece of the puck as it went by," Kapanen
said. "At that point in the game, you don't want to focus too much
on how it goes in."

Dafoe made eight saves in the five-minute overtime to keep the
Hurricanes from picking up an extra point. He shook off a couple of
shaky plays in the second that erased Atlanta's two-goal advantage.

"Byron did a great job in overtime," interim coach Don Waddell
said. "He would love to have both of those goals back in the
second period, but he bounced back from that in the third. There's
no doubt this will help Byron's confidence."

The game was played before 9,061 at Philips Arena, the smallest
crowd in Thrashers history.

Heatley scored his second goal off a power play with 11:39 to go
in regulation. Yannick Tremblay passed into the corner to Ilya
Kovalchuk, who found Heatley sliding free in the slot. Heatley took
the feed and one-timed a shot past the helpless Irbe.

Kovalchuk also scored for the Thrashers, while Rod Brind'Amour
and Jeff O'Neill had goals for Carolina.

The Thrashers failed to follow up a Dec. 27 victory at Carolina
-- their first victory ever against the Hurricanes, who have just
one win in their last six games.

"We played well in the first and much of the third, but it's
tough when you lose leads like that," Heatley said.

Dafoe played a full game for the first time since injuring his
groin in a Dec. 20 loss to Carolina. He played 12 minutes against
Ottawa last Thursday, but was yanked after giving up four goals on
seven shots.

Just 3:27 into the game, Heatley scored his 11th goal of the
season. Shawn McEachern fed a pass to Heatley, who was left open at
the side of the net and easily beat Irbe with a quick shot.

The Thrashers stretched their lead late in the first when Patrik
Stefan threaded a pass to Kovalchuk, who raced in alone from center
ice and beat Irbe on the glove side for his team-high 22nd goal.

Carolina fought back in the second period. Off a faceoff, the
puck slid softly toward Dafoe, who bent over to scoop it up and
somehow let it slip right between his legs. Brind'Amour was given
credit for his 13th goal.

About 12 minutes later, O'Neill fired a shot from the same
faceoff circle. The puck was moving faster but the result was the
same -- right through Dafoe's legs for O'Neill's team-leading 16th
of the season.

Irbe, meanwhile, stopped a couple of breakaways in the second.
Kovalchuk got loose again, but this time he was stopped. Irbe made
another key save going one-on-one with J.P. Vigier a few minutes

In the third, the Carolina goalie made another brilliant stop on
Marc Savard's breakaway, somehow getting his right leg on the puck
while sprawled face-first on the ice.

Game notes
The Thrashers reportedly have talked with ex-Colorado coach
Bob Hartley and Philadelphia scout Terry Murray, a former coach of
three teams. Waddell, the team's GM, won't discuss a timetable for
naming a successor to Curt Fraser, who was fired Dec. 26. ...
Carolina leads the series with the Thrashers 11-1-4-3. ...
Atlanta's Andy Sutton picked up his career-high ninth assist on
Heatley's goal.