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by Staff Writer / Carolina Hurricanes

By DAVID DROSCHAK -- Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Arturs Irbe had more than just the New York Rangers as an opponent, he was also fighting the flu.

Irbe, playing with a fever and chills, recorded his 22nd career shutout as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Rangers 1-0 Sunday night.

"I was pretty much dead meat from 6 o'clock last night until midnight, and today I felt like I was laboring hard," Irbe said. "Usually, I am just gliding in the net and barely break a sweat in a game."

Irbe, not known as a good stick-handler, said the flu wasn't all bad.

"I knew my body was a little off-balance, but it benefited me," he said. "It kept me away from all those dumb plays I can pull off."

Andrei Kovalenko's second-period goal was the game-winner. He now has 10 goals in 22 career games against the Rangers.

Irbe, pulled in the second period of Friday night's 4-4 tie with Anaheim after giving up three goals, was sharp this time. He stopped 30 shots for his third shutout of the season.

The closest the Rangers came to scoring was when Mathieu Schneider hit the post to the left of Irbe early in the second.

"When I heard the post I knew it wasn't going in," said Irbe. "We goalies, we know when it hits the post if it's going in the net or across your back or wide. I guess all those hits in practice and the games teaches you."

The Rangers, coming off a pair of wins over Toronto, couldn't string together their third three-game winning streak of the season as they played against one of the teams they're chasing in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

"I'm not frustrated at all," Rangers coach John Muckler said. "We played well enough to win the hockey game, we just had the misfortune of losing it because we couldn't score goals. That's where the improvement has to be."

The Hurricanes, urged this week by coach Paul Maurice to shoot more, complied for a third straight game. Carolina, which moved back to the .500 mark, fired 28 shots at New York goalie Mike Richter.

Carolina is now 4-2-1 in its last seven games after losing seven of nine.

"We had a little talk before the new year started and we were just disappointed in the way we were playing as a team," said Carolina captain Ron Francis. "We wanted to get back to what is going to make us successful and that's concentrating on our game, playing smart out there. We have done that lately."

Kovalenko's goal came on a great individual effort 6:34 into the second. The left-winger swept in behind the net, and circled into the slot with a New York defenseman trailing, lifting a high back-handed shot over Richter's glove.

"They don't call him The Tank for nothing," Francis said, referring to Kovalenko's nickname. "He is extremely strong on his skates and that was a great example. What a great goal."

Gary Roberts picked up one of the assists on Kovalenko's goal to extend his point streak to eight games.

The Rangers had scored at least one power play goal in five straight road games, but were shut out Sunday by the NHL's best home penalty-killing unit.



On the game:

“Well I thought we skated very very well tonight. We needed a game like that because it had a lot of the elements that we’re looking for. We need strong goaltending. While I don’t think that Arturs was overworked, he certainly had his share.

On the defense generating opportunities:

We need our defensemen to move the puck better than they had… Paul Coffey’s been doing a phenomenal job with that – really moving the puck and getting it to our forwards. We still passed up a handful of opportunities to shoot the puck, which is a little bit frustrating. But we’re still in line with what we’re trying to do, which is shoot the

puck more. We have plenty of offense.

On Irbe coming back after being pulled last game:

“More than (Helping) the goaltender is what it does for the rest of the team in terms of seeing him come back and bounce back and have a shutout. I don’t think he was feeling particularly well tonight, but he played well tonight. That’s really important, and it’s important for the players to see. He was strong.”


On the game:

“I thought it was a game that could have gone either way. Both teams had good chances. The goaltending at both ends was pretty good. I guess that’s the way you expect it to be when I guess both teams are playing for an eighth or seventh spot and competing for the two points.”

“A goal any place would have helped. We had some good opportunities, especially Petr’s line. He really had several good shifts. Second period there they were all over Carolina, but couldn’t put the puck in.”

On whether fatigue was a factor:

“We’re a pressure hockey club. I thought we played a real gutty hockey game. We played very well in the first period. We didn’t give up anything in the first period. In the second period we started off slow then we came on strong in the second period. We had a little bit of trouble finding some energy in the third period. They got a goal, and we had some opportunities we couldn’t score, it’s as simple as that.”

Summary-----------------------------NY Rangers           0 0 0--0Carolina             0 1 0--1-----------------------------FIRST PERIOD -- Scoring: None. Penalties: Malik, Car (tripping), 6:18;Gelinas, Car (Obstr holding), 13:59; Taylor, Nyr (interference), 20:00.SECOND PERIOD -- Scoring: 1, Carolina, Kovalenko 8 (Oneill, Roberts),6:34. Penalties: Wesley, Car (cross checking), 3:28; Lefebvre, Nyr (highsticking), 7:38.THIRD PERIOD -- Scoring: None.Shots on goal:---------------------------------NY Rangers           11 10  9--30Carolina             10 11  7--28---------------------------------

Power-play Conversions: Nyr - 0 of 3, Car - 0 of 2. Goalies: NYRangers, Richter (28 shots, 27 saves; record: 10-16-7). Carolina, Irbe(30, 30; record: 14-13-7). A:12,174. Referees: Larue, Watson. Linesmen:S Provost, Racicot.

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