Final OT

Series (Game 4 of 5)

Series tied 2-2

Game 1: Friday, October 11th
Game 2: Friday, December 20th
Game 3: Friday, December 27th
Game 4: Tuesday, January 7th
Game 5: Wednesday, March 26th

Hurricanes 3

(16-16-3, 41 pts)

Jets 3

(10-24-4, 26 pts)

7:30 PM ET, January 7, 2003

Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

1 2 3 OT T
CAR 0 2 1 03
WPG 2 0 1 03

D. Heatley (Jets - LW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

S. McEachern (Jets - LW): Goals: 0, Assists: 1

R. Brind'Amour (Hurricanes - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

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.

 Byron Dafoe

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 12½ 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 later.

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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press