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Thrashers Staaled
Carolina star nets hat trick in 5-4 win

ATLANTA - Eric Staal scored three goals in a 4:31 span of the third period to overshadow Bryan Little's first career hat trick in the Carolina Hurricanes' 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night.

Staal's sixth career hat trick, and second in 17 games, helped Carolina win for the second time in three games and fourth in six.

After Staal tied it at 3 on a power play with 12:33 remaining, Little answered with his third goal of the game, redirecting Niclas Havelid's wrister for his fifth goal in two games and 17th this season.

Staal tied it again at 9:18, firing a shot off the left post and behind Johan Hedberg. The Carolina star made it 5-4 barely a minute later, easily skating around Thrashers defenseman Nathan Oystrick and beating Hedberg.

Slava Kozlov had his first career four-assist game for the Thrashers, 1-7-2 at Philips Arena since beating Carolina on Nov. 14.

Ray Whitney finished with three assists for the Hurricanes, who outshot Atlanta 15-5 in the third to send the Thrashers to their second loss in three games.

After Carolina took a 2-1 lead on Patrick Eaves' goal early in the second, Little scored twice on the power play to put Atlanta ahead 3-2 with just 2.6 seconds remaining in the period.

Chad LaRose also scored for Carolina.

Todd White added a power-play goal for Atlanta.

Notes: Eaves' goal was his first since last March 16 against Ottawa, the team that dealt him a month earlier along with Joe Corvo in the deal that sent Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman to the Senators. ... Hurricanes RW Scott Walker took a puck to the face and left the ice under his own power late in the first, but returned for the faceoff with stitches at the top of his nose to begin the second. ... The Hurricanes improved to 33-13-4 against Atlanta, including an 18-5-3 record at Philips Arena.