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Hurricanes 3, Capitals 0 @NHLdotcom

WASHINGTON (AP) -A scheduling quirk allowed Carolina Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette to give his team two full days off this week.

He wasn't quite sure if it was the right thing to do, given that the slumping defending Stanley Cup champions are struggling to make the playoffs. Would they lose their edge with that time away? Not a chance.

Cam Ward recorded his second career regular-season shutout, and Justin Williams, Niclas Wallin and Andrew Ladd scored leading Carolina to a 3-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

"Coach did us a favor," said Ward, whose other shutout also came against Washington. "We made it worthwhile by coming out tonight and working extremely hard throughout the entire game. Guys looked like they had some energy and played with a purpose."

He made 25 saves for Carolina, which entered the day in a three-way tie for the eighth and final Eastern Conference postseason berth with the idle Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers.

The Hurricanes had lost three of their previous four games, but they hadn't played since Sunday. Laviolette let his players rest Monday and Tuesday.

"You go two ways. You can come back from a couple days off and forget how to engage in the battles that go on, on the ice, and what it takes to be successful. ... So I was concerned about that," Laviolette said. "But I think, under the circumstances, where we sit, that automatically took care of that. The urgency had to be built in tonight just based on a quick glance at the standings."

The Capitals do not want to look at the standings at all. They've lost six consecutive games, 11 of 12, and only Philadelphia has fewer points in the East.

Washington also was shut out for the second straight game, something that hadn't happened to the club since February 2006.

Asked whether there's a light at the end of the tunnel, Washington coach Glen Hanlon laughed.

"It's a pretty long tunnel right now," he began, then sighed. "There will be tomorrow. I'm not having a lot of fun right now. I'm trying to see it."

Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, the Capitals' top two scorers, were limited to a combined eight shots, and Carolina's penalty-killing unit continued its recent form. The Hurricanes came in having killed off 27 of 28 penalties over the previous eight games. Washington went 0-for-5 on the power play.

Ward had two shutouts during the playoffs en route to being the MVP of the Hurricanes' run to the title. But he never held an opponent without a goal during a regular-season game until Nov. 9 of this season - in a 5-0 victory over Washington.

Capitals goalie Brent Johnson faced a much tougher task than Ward. Carolina finished with 45 shots, the first time in 19 games that Washington allowed 40 or more.

Ladd knocked in a rebound 1:42 into the second period, after Johnson blocked attempts by Scott Walker and Eric Staal.

The Hurricanes doubled their lead at the 12:53 mark of the third, when Washington's Donald Brashear sent the puck right to Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour, who set up Williams' 32nd goal. That allowed Brind'Amour to tie Denis Potvin for 59th in NHL history with 1,052 points.

Wallin added an empty-netter with 29.9 seconds left.

"We just kept plodding along," Laviolette said.

Notes: Capitals D John Erskine will miss the rest of the season after dislocating his thumb during a second-period fight with Walker. ... Capitals G Olie Kolzig missed his 11th consecutive game with a knee injury. Out since mid-February, he's expected to return next week.

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