Thrashers fall to Hurricanes late

ATLANTA - The Carolina Hurricanes stopped Ilya Kovalchuk for a change.

Two days after Kovalchuk had four points in an overtime win at Carolina, the Atlanta star was held without a goal as the Hurricanes padded their Southeast Division lead by beating the Thrashers 4-3 on Friday night.

Cory Stillman's goal with a two-man advantage gave Carolina its first lead with 3:23 left. The decisive score came with 9 seconds remaining on the two-man advantage.

Carolina's late power play came after a 4-minute high-sticking penalty on Ken Klee and a 2-minute delay of game penalty on Thrashers captain Bobby Holik.

The Thrashers fell to 4-13 when Kovalchuk, the NHL leader with 33 goals, is held without a goal. Atlanta (20-21-1) hoped to pull within a point of first-place Carolina but instead fell below .500.

Kovalchuk has 24 goals in 34 career games against Carolina, including a goal and three assists in the Thrashers' 5-4 overtime win Wednesday night. He was limited to one assist in the rematch.

Eric Staal, Ray Whitney and Casey Borer also scored for Carolina, which ended a three-game losing streak.

Carolina goalie Michael Leighton, called up from Albany of the American Hockey League when veteran backup John Grahame was waived on Thursday, made 23 stops.

Leighton started over Cam Ward, who was 2-5-1 with a 3.88 goals-against average in his last nine games.

Leighton trailed 1-0 less than a minute into his 2007-08 NHL debut, thanks to Mark Recchi's tip-in 32 seconds into the game. Todd White's goal 12:15 into the first period gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead.

Carolina set a high-scoring pace for the second period with Whitney's goal 27 seconds into the period, the first of three goals in the first five minutes.

Atlanta answered with a short-handed tip-in by Pascal Dupuis about three minutes later for a 3-1 lead. The fast tempo continued on the same Carolina power play when Staal guided a shot by Jeffrey Hamilton into the net.

The Hurricanes pulled even at 3 late in the second period on Borer's first NHL goal, a shot through Kari Lehtonen's legs after a pass from Keith Aucoin. Lehtonen made 29 stops.


Borer, a 2004 third-round pick recalled from Albany on Tuesday, has played in two games, both against Atlanta. ... Grahame cleared waivers and was assigned to Albany. ... Center Kevin Doell became Atlanta's sixth player of the season to make his NHL debut. Doell was recalled from AHL Chicago on Thursday. ... Leighton was 10-23-10 with a 3.04 goals-against average in previous NHL stints with Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia.