Ward shines in goal as Hurricanes blank Thrashers - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Ward shines in goal as Hurricanes blank Thrashers

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RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) -- A first-period surge helped

the Carolina Hurricanes continue to bounce back from a dismal

skid.

Cam Ward made 19 saves and Matt Cullen scored a goal and set up

another as the Hurricanes blanked the Atlanta Thrashers, 2-0, on

Saturday in battle of Southeast Division rivals.

The 24-year-old Ward turned aside four shots in both the first

and third periods, while stopping 11 shots in the second to

notch his third shutout of the season and ninth career.

"When you're facing only 19 or 20 shots, that can be tough for a

goaltender," Ward said. "But I felt sharp despite not getting

much work. We'll take the win and hopefully have some more

success on the road."

Ray Whitney also tallied in the first for the Hurricanes, who

have won four of their last five after suffering through a

season-high five-game losing streak.

"The puck's going in," Cullen said. "We've been on a lot of

stretches without it, so it's nice to see it finally go in as

these games get bigger and bigger," Cullen said.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 38 shots for the Thrashers, who dropped

their fourth straight contest.

"It's the same thing that has happened the last three or four

games," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "We've talked about

getting ready. We're so fragile. We have two bad shifts and

suddenly we're down.

"We're so worried about our own zone. We don't chase pucks

down. We get hemmed in."

Carolina outshot the Thrashers, 21-4, in the first period, when

Ward received all the support he would need.

"I thought our team played extremely well," Ward said. "Right

from the drop of the puck, we were ready to go. It arguably

could be one of our best periods of the year. Those two goals

we got ended up prevailing."

Cullen opened the scoring 7:41 into the game after accepting a

feed from Chad LaRose and firing a wrist shot from the low slot

past Lehtonen.

Whitney doubled the lead with 91 seconds remaining in the

session, lifting a backhander into the vacant net from the

doorstep.

The Hurricanes held a 40-19 overall margin in shots and jumped

into the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff

picture with 55 points.

"We had great energy and jump," said Carolina coach Paul

Maurice, who became the 14th coach in NHL history to have

coached 700 games with a franchise.

"We tried to do simple things as fast as we could. Then it was

the advantage of playing in Carolina. The crowd was great and

they know when you're going. It was our most aggressive best

period since we've been here and (the Thrashers were) on their

heels. The fans really drove that game."

Atlanta, meanwhile, has scored seven goals during its current

slide after totaling 15 in winning the previous three.

"It's pretty disappointing we couldn't get a great game, and we

had a pretty bad effort," Thrashers center Bryan Little said.

"I'm getting tired of talking about the starts we've been

having.

"Each game we say we have to have a good start, and each game we

don't. I don't know what it's going to take to get back to

playing a full 60 minutes."

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