WASHINGTON (AP) -After a slow start to the season, Rod Brind'Amour and the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes are playing like, well, Stanley Cup champions.
Brind'Amour had two goals and two assists to extend his point streak to seven games, and Erik Cole also had a hand in every score for Carolina in a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
"We definitely feel better the way we've been playing of late," said Brind'Amour, who has goals in four consecutive games. "We've got to keep it up, because we're not where we want to be yet."
Carolina's captain didn't manage a single point through the season's first four games, all losses - but he has 10 goals and 20 assists in the 17 games since to rank among the league leaders.
Brind'Amour has at least one point in every Carolina victory this season, and he and Cole scored power-play goals less than two minutes apart in the second period for a 2-0 lead that set the tone.
"It can grind teams down and wear them down a little bit, having to play in their end," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "Over the course of time, we can get the results we want."
Backup goalie John Grahame made 21 saves to earn his first win since joining the defending champions in the offseason. Grahame, a member of the U.S. team at the Turin Olympics, allowed a total of 10 goals in his previous two starts this season.
Cam Ward started in Carolina's net each of the previous 11 games and 18 of the team's 20 this season entering Friday.
Grahame "wants to play. He wants to be in there," Laviolette said. "It's easy just to accept a role or a situation, and I know that he was mad, and he wanted to get in there and he wanted to contribute."
Brind'Amour assisted on Cole's opening goal, scored himself 1:46 later to make it 2-0, assisted on Ray Whitney's goal early in the third period and ended the scoring with 1:47 remaining off a pass from Cole, who finished with three assists.
Brind'Amour and Cole each scored in the second period exactly 43 seconds after a Capitals player was sent to the penalty box. There was a smattering of boos from the crowd of 12,683 at the end of the period.
"They've got some guys up front who know how to finish," Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig said. "Tough to say about a Stanley Cup champion, but they're a much more improved team than (at) the beginning of the season."
Whitney made it 3-0 for Carolina 5:33 into the third period, off assists by Brind'Amour and Cole. Richard Zednik, who missed Washington's previous six games with an injury, scored the hosts' goal on a power play with 10:32 left.
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, the reigning rookie of the year, didn't have a particularly good showing in his 100th NHL game. Not only didn't he have a point - he didn't even register a shot through two periods, finishing with three.
"It's the second year of their system and ... it's fairly robotic. There's not a lot of defensive breakdowns there," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. "They're the champs, and until somebody beats them, they're the best team in the league."
Notes: Washington LW Alexander Semin didn't play in the third period because he was hurt and might miss the team's game at Boston on Saturday - although the Capitals wouldn't say what his injury is. "Somewhere on the body," general manager George McPhee said. ... Four of Cole's seven goals this season have come against Washington. He had a hat trick in a 5-0 victory Nov. 9. ... Capitals captain Chris Clark missed the game after having three teeth knocked out when a puck hit him in the face Wednesday against Boston. He won't play Saturday, either.
|PPG - Erik Cole (7) ASST: Andrew Hutchinson (3), Rod Brind'Amour (19)|
1 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Rod Brind'Amour (9) ASST: Erik Cole (12), Ray Whitney (18)|
2 - 0 CAR
|Ray Whitney (8) ASST: Rod Brind'Amour (20), Erik Cole (13)|
3 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Richard Zednik (3) ASST: Ben Clymer (3), Kris Beech (6)|
3 - 1 CAR
|Rod Brind'Amour (10) ASST: Erik Cole (14), Ray Whitney (19)|
4 - 1 CAR
|Eric Staal Hooking against Kris Beech|
|Anton Babchuk Interference against Steve Eminger|
|Matt Bradley Tripping against Erik Cole|
|Mike Commodore Holding against Richard Zednik|
|Bryan Muir Hooking against Justin Williams|
|Alexander Semin Hi-sticking against Anton Babchuk|
|Shaone Morrisonn Holding the stick against Ray Whitney|
|Donald Brashear Holding against Anton Babchuk|
|Dainius Zubrus Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Trevor Letowski Holding the stick|
|Andrew Ladd Delaying Game-Puck over glass|