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Hurricanes 7, Penguins 5 @NHLdotcom

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Losing a player as valuable as Erik Cole to an injury was bad enough for the Carolina Hurricanes. The way it happened - with Cole being run over from behind, in a game against the NHL's worst-record team - made them even more upset.

Cole scored two goals for the second night in a row before getting hurt in the third period, and the Hurricanes chased both Pittsburgh goalies in a 7-5 victory over the Penguins on Saturday night.

Cole left the ice in visible pain with 14 1/2 minutes remaining, clutching his right arm, after being driven headfirst into the boards by the Penguins' Brook Orpik. Orpik drew a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct.

Cole, tied with Cory Stillman for second on the team in scoring with 60 points, was taken to a hospital to be examined for what coach Peter Laviolette said was a neck injury, but the team disclosed no other details.

"I understand playing hard, but you don't run guys from behind - ever," captain Rod Brind'Amour said. "I mean I have played 100 years and I've never run a guy from behind. That's one of the best players in the league, Erik Cole, and we need him, and these guys aren't really playing for anything. It's frustrating."

Coach Peter Laviolette also was upset, saying, "It was not a clean hit. Somebody is going to get hurt. Hopefully, our guy is not as severely hurt."

Laviolette added, "He clearly could have let up on the hit and he decided not to. He knew exactly what he was doing, he should have let up."

Brind'Amour said Orpik has a reputation for hitting late and from behind and, he said, "So put those two together, that's pretty much what happened there."

If Cole's injury is serious, it could be a major setback to the Hurricanes, who lead the NHL with 88 points after winning four in a row, 10 of 13 and 19 of 23. Cole scored a goal in each of the first two periods Saturday after scoring twice in a 5-2 victory at home over Florida on Friday night.

"Hopefully, he's all right because he's a big part of our team," said Eric Staal, who had a goal and three assists to give him a team-high 82 points. "We are going to need him."

Mark Recchi had the Penguins' first three-goal game since Alexei Kovalev did so on Jan. 25, 2003, but it wasn't enough to prevent their fifth consecutive home loss and 10th in 11 games in Pittsburgh. They are 7-18-6 at home.

Just as they did in a 4-3 loss to Ottawa on Wednesday, the Penguins fell behind big early - then it was 4-0, this time it was 5-0 - before unsuccessfully mounting a rally.

"We've got to get off to better starts," Recchi said. "You keep falling behind 4-0, 5-0, it's pretty tough."

The matchup of the NHL's best- and worst-record teams got off to a predictable start as the Hurricanes opened a five-goal lead in less than a period. Sebastien Caron was lifted after allowing power-play goals to Staal and Ray Whitney among the first five shots he faced, but replacement Marc-Andre Fleury was even worse - he also was pulled after allowing goals by Cole, Kevyn Adams and Rod Brind'Amour on four shots. Caron came back to start the second period and finished the game, stopping 21 of 25 shots.

The Hurricanes, who lost to Pittsburgh 4-3 on Feb. 10 in one of only five home losses all season, seemed to relax with such a big lead and the Penguins got goals in the second from Recchi, John LeClair and Konstantin Koltsov - Koltsov's first since March 27, 2004.

Cole's second of the game and 30th of the season came midway through the period and made it 6-2. The Hurricanes got the seventh and final goal 35 seconds after Orpik's hit injured Cole, with Stillman scoring their third power-play goal and fourth special-teams goal of the game. Cole's first goal came on a short-handed breakaway that made it 3-0 and was followed by Adams' 11th less than a minute later.

The 38-year-old Recchi scored both Penguins goals in the third period, giving him 24 for the season. He could be an attractive pickup for a contending team before Thursday's trading deadline, and seems to be altering his stance that he didn't want to leave Pittsburgh for a second time.

"I care about the Pittsburgh Penguins, and if they came to me and said they had to do something, if they could get a younger player, I'd have to think about it," he said. "I care about where the Penguins are going."

Notes: Staal had four goals and eight assists in four games against Pittsburgh. Carolina won three of the four games in the season series, including a shootout victory Oct. 7 in each team's second game. ... Stillman had a goal and two assists, giving him four goals and six assists against Pittsburgh. ... The Penguins have allowed seven short-handed goals and scored only one at home.

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