RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Two lucky bounces, a couple of opportunities on the power play, and the Carolina Hurricanes were off and running.
The New Jersey Devils? They simply got out of the way.
"We had our legs today, guys were skating well," Carolina center Eric Staal said. "That's our game. If we're moving our feet, we're going to create opportunities and power plays."
Ray Whitney scored two fortuitous goals, rookie Cam Ward got his first career playoff shutout and the Hurricanes ended New Jersey's 15-game winning streak with a 6-0 victory Saturday in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
It was the first loss for the Devils since March 26 - they won the final 11 games of the regular season on the way to the Atlantic Division, then swept the New York Rangers in the previous round. The winning streak tied the longest in NHL history that encompassed the regular season and playoffs.
"We're not looking for any excuses whatsoever," general manager and coach Lou Lamoriello said. "We didn't do some of the little things that we've been doing that gave us the success that we've had."
New Jersey never had a chance in this one. Maybe it was the weeklong layoff between games, or perhaps it was the play of the Hurricanes. Either way, the Devils must find a way to bounce back for Game 2 on Monday night.
"We have to play as good or better on Monday night, so we're not tooting our own horn here, or thinking we're something special now," Whitney said.
Eric Staal, Cory Stillman, Doug Weight and captain Rod Brind'Amour also scored for Carolina, which now has won five straight in the postseason. Ward had to make only 21 saves, continuing his impressive play after taking over for starter Martin Gerber in the first period of the second game against Montreal.
The 22-year-old Ward finished with a 1.54 goals-against average in that series, and he was even better against New Jersey.
"It's a team shutout, really," Ward said. "The team, I thought, played outstanding. It was well-deserving of a shutout, and any time you see them working that hard, especially in the defensive zone, you want to match your effort with theirs."
His counterpart, Martin Brodeur, wasn't as fortunate on his 34th birthday, suffering the worst playoff loss of his career and getting pulled late in the third period.
"Losing 6-0 in the first game of the series is not something to look back on," Brodeur said. "A lot of things went wrong. I don't think you can point at one thing. Our special teams were not up to par."
Whitney got it started early, scoring on the power play to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead. He tried to center the puck through the crease and Brodeur swiped at it with his stick, knocking the puck off the skate of defenseman Brad Lukowich and back through his legs into the net.
This was unfamiliar territory for the Devils, who trailed for only 4:39 in the entire series against the Rangers.
"These guys are so much quicker," Brodeur said. "They have puck pressure everywhere. Their power play, they are definitely doing something we're going to have to take a look at."
It got worse in the second period, with Whitney again putting the puck in the net. He skated in to the right of Brodeur and sent a pass back through the crease. This time, Brodeur knocked it in all by himself, and Carolina led 2-0. It was Whitney's third goal of the playoffs, and none were actual shots on the net.
"I'm trying to make a pass, and it goes off somebody and goes in," he said. "It's not pretty, but I'll take it."
Perhaps the turning point came about 3 minutes later, when the Hurricanes killed back-to-back penalties that included 9 seconds of 5-on-3. First, Aaron Ward went off for hooking, and seconds after he returned, Bret Hedican was called for tripping.
Then, when that one ended, Mike Commodore got a penalty for cross-checking, but the power play disappeared in only 14 seconds when New Jersey center Scott Gomez was penalized for hooking.
"Special teams are huge this time of year, we know that," Brind'Amour said. "It was in our favor. The bad thing about is it really doesn't matter now. It is absolutely over, and the next game is going to be a whole new thing."
New Jersey failed to mount any real offense during that stretch.
Later in the period, Carolina took control, thanks to some undisciplined play by the Devils. Sergei Brylin and Jamie Langenbrunner went to the penalty box to give up an extended two-man advantage. Brind'Amour came on to win the ensuing faceoff and got the puck to Staal, who went to the net to beat Brodeur.
"We're not happy about the result," New Jersey center Patrik Elias said. "This is the playoffs and we have to take it as it is. Our special teams didn't do a good job and theirs did. That was the main reason why they won."
Carolina still had 1:51 left of 5-on-4, and Stillman easily put in a rebound for a 4-0 lead. Weight and Brind'Amour added goals in third period to complete the rout and send Brodeur to the bench. Backup Scott Clemmensen got the first playoff action of his career.
"The thing you've got to remember, it's just one win, it's one out of four," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "You'd rather have it in the bank, but there's still a lot of work left."
Notes: Commodore and New Jersey RW Cam Janssen squared off in the third period, with Janssen losing his helmet. Both players got in some punches before tiring out and heading to the penalty box. ... The Devils' winning streak matched that of the 1954-55 Detroit Red Wings, who won their second straight Stanley Cup title that season.
|PPG - Ray Whitney (2) ASST: Matt Cullen (2), Doug Weight (4)|
1 - 0 CAR
|Ray Whitney (3) ASST: Eric Staal (7)|
2 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Eric Staal (3) ASST: Rod Brind'Amour (3)|
3 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Cory Stillman (3) ASST: Justin Williams (3), Eric Staal (8)|
4 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Doug Weight (1) ASST: Frantisek Kaberle (2), Cam Ward (1)|
5 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Rod Brind'Amour (5) ASST: Bret Hedican (4), Cory Stillman (4)|
6 - 0 CAR
|Bret Hedican Interference against Grant Marshall|
|Ken Klee Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Ken Klee Tripping against Justin Williams|
|Aaron Ward Hooking against Jay Pandolfo|
|Bret Hedican Tripping against Zach Parise|
|Mike Commodore Cross checking against Zach Parise|
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Rod Brind'Amour|
|Sergei Brylin Cross checking against Rod Brind'Amour|
|Jamie Langenbrunner Hooking against Ray Whitney|
|John Madden Roughing against Justin Williams|
|Martin Brodeur Roughing against Justin Williams|
|Justin Williams Roughing against John Madden|
|Chad LaRose Interference on goalkeeper against Martin Brodeur|
|Jamie Langenbrunner Roughing against Chad LaRose|
|Mike Commodore Fighting (maj) against Cam Janssen|
|Cam Janssen Instigator against Mike Commodore|
|Cam Janssen Fighting (maj) against Mike Commodore|
|Cam Janssen Misconduct (10 min)|
|Grant Marshall Boarding against Chad LaRose|
|Doug Weight Hooking against Zach Parise|