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Hurricanes blank Caps 3-0

by Kurt Dusterberg
RALEIGH -- For 25 games, Jussi Jokinen waited. As the Carolina forward knows, scoreless stretches can drag on and on.

"I have 500 games under my belt, so I know those streaks happen," Jokinen said. "But at the same time, you want to get the drought (over) as soon as you can."

Jokinen left the slump behind Friday night, scoring a pair of goals to lift the Hurricanes to a 3-0 victory against the Washington Capitals at the RBC Center. Cam Ward stopped 23 shots to record his second shutout of the season and 18th of his career.

Jokinen's scoreless streak actually ended last Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the Capitals. But the two-goal effort Friday night left him breathing a little easier.

"Being an offensive player like me, I need to score goals for this team to win," said Jokinen, who has 27 points through 46 games. "Lucky I got that goal on Sunday. Now it's been going better, so I hope I can keep going."

Jokinen's three goals over the past three games are the first that Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller has seen since his arrival on Nov. 28. But Muller never expressed any doubt about Jokinen's commitment.

"A lot of guys who go through the tough drought that he did would get frustrated, get off their games," Muller said. "He stayed true. He didn't take shortcuts and he worked through it."

Eric Staal, another Carolina player who has shaken off an extended slump, set up Jokinen's first goal. While shorthanded, Staal stripped the puck from John Carlson in his own end and fed Jokinen coming down the slot. He beat Thomas Vokoun over the glove for his sixth goal of the season.

Jokinen made it 2-0 with 18 seconds remaining in the second period and the Hurricanes on the power play. Defenseman Jay Harrison worked to find an open shot, and Jokinen slipped the rebound past Vokoun from the slot. Tim Brent also picked up an assist. Dennis Wideman was in the box for Washington serving an interference penalty.

Jiri Tlusty added a spectacular goal with 30 seconds remaining in the game, diving past Vokoun to sweep a shot into the net.

Ward was steady but wasn't tested often by the Capitals, who were blanked for the second time in three games.

"They're looking for a low scoring (game), not their traditional 6-5 game of the past," Ward said. "You've got to be careful because you're not doing a whole lot of work, but you know they have a ton of skill over there. But we were sharp all night."

Ward owed plenty of thanks to his defense. The Hurricanes limited the Caps' chances throughout the game.

"We've been working on it for quite a while now," rookie defenseman Justin Faulk said. "You just need to take time and space away, have sticks in passing lanes, be in their face. When we play like that, we get good results."

With a 3-1-1 record in the past five games, Carolina is finally playing a consistent brand of hockey.  Muller's message of accountability among the players is getting through.

"He's been really harping on paying attention to detail, whether it's having the puck and making a good pass, or on the defensive side of the puck not losing your responsibility," said defenseman Bryan Allen, who had three blocked shots and two hits. "There's been good accountability among the players."

At least for one night, the same wasn't true for the Capitals. During the first period, the Caps had four minutes of power-play time but were outshot 3-1 by Carolina.

"We had our chances again, but today you can tell by the stats that special teams killed us," coach Dale Hunter said. "They scored two power-play goals and they scored shorthanded. Our power play, we gave up five or six scoring chances. We made bad decisions with the puck and it cost us."

Added Wideman: "We obviously didn't play well.  We didn't seem to have any jump tonight. We turned a lot of pucks over and we played a lot of time in our own zone."

After the game, the Hurricanes traded forward Alexei Ponikarovsky to New Jersey in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick and minor league defenseman Joe Sova. Ponikarovsky, signed to a one-year deal last summer, had seven goals and eight assists in 49 games for the Hurricanes.
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