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Hurricanes 4, Penguins 1 @NHL

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -Pittsburgh's opener featured all the trademarks of a typical Penguins game - young star forwards flying up and down the ice, an up-and-coming goalie making save after acrobatic save.

Only this time, all the big plays were made by the Carolina Hurricanes' youngsters.

Eric Staal scored two first-period goals, Cam Ward stopped 33 shots in taking a shutout into the final minutes and the Hurricanes spoiled Pittsburgh's season opener with a 4-1 victory Friday night.

"We like to think we've got some good young players on this team as well," Staal said.

Jeff Hamilton had a goal and two assists and Andrew Ladd also scored for the Hurricanes, who earned their first victory by regularly frustrating two of the Penguins' young stars.

Mark Recchi scored for Pittsburgh, which saw goalie Marc-Andre Fleury peppered for two periods and star Sidney Crosby neutralized in the 20-year-old's first game as Pittsburgh's captain.

"Cam Ward was probably a big part of that," Crosby said. "We had our chances. He was able to hold it down for a bit while they gained some momentum."

The reigning league MVP and youngest player to wear the "C" in NHL history was held to one shot in 19:27 of ice time after entering with an average of one point per game in eight meetings with the Hurricanes.

Fleury allowed goals on two of the first eight shots he faced, finishing with 22 saves before he was benched during the second intermission because coach Michel Therrien said he "was trying to change momentum in the game."

It all added up to a discouraging start to a highly anticipated season for the up-and-coming Penguins, who expect to contend for the Stanley Cup and - with their first two games coming against the last two title-winning teams - will find out quickly if they're up to the task.

"Just one game, but you want to start well - there's no hiding that," Crosby said. "You can't blow your season in the opener by any means, but you have to make sure you get in good habits."

Both Ward and Staal showed the form that made them the leaders of Carolina's Cup run in 2006.

Ward flirted with his third career regular-season shutout before Recchi scored on the power play with 3:23 to play. Still, through two games the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner has stopped 70 of the 74 shots he has faced.

"It's just a matter of coming out every night and being mentally prepared," Ward said. "I do the best that I can to hold myself accountable to be right mentally, get myself fired up before the game, because every game means a lot. You look at last year, we were fighting for our playoff lives. You never want to look back early into the season, wishing that you had a win here or there."

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins were held in check during their season-opening loss to Carolina.

Staal, the Hurricanes' leading scorer during their playoff march, registered the fifth multigoal game of his career and first since scoring twice against Tampa Bay last January.

He once again found a way to frustrate the Penguins, his younger brother Jordan's team and one of four opponents against which he averages better than one point per game.

"He came into camp in great shape and that puts you in the right direction to having success," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "He certainly is, I think, showing that he worked hard this summer by the way he's playing the game. ... When he does that he can dominate."

He scored twice about 6 minutes apart in the first period to give the Hurricanes a comfortable early lead. First, he charged down the right side and wristed home the long rebound of Tim Gleason's slap shot past a sliding Fleury's glove side.

Then, Staal made it 2-0 with his third goal of the season. He caught the puck out of mid-air, dropped it before backhanding it toward the net, and it clicked off the skate of Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik - a longtime Carolina nemesis - and slipped past Fleury.

"It was a little bit bad luck, but also some mistakes on my side," Fleury said.

Notes: Staal now has a two-game goal streak after a scoring change gave him credit for the Hurricanes' first goal Wednesday against Montreal. A review found that Erik Cole didn't redirect that puck near the net. ... Carolina LW Cory Stillman (torso) was scratched for the second straight game. D Bret Hedican (illness) also was scratched. ... The Penguins fell to 16-18-6 in season openers. ... Carolina has won the last three meetings in Raleigh. ... Orpik, whose hit two years ago broke Cole's neck, was booed every time he touched the puck.

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