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Hurricanes blank Devils, series goes distance

by Brian Compton

Brian Compton | Staff Writer

-- After Sunday morning's skate, Eric Staal was calm, cool and collected. He preached how he and the Carolina Hurricanes needed to play with desperation and how they needed to continue to pepper Martin Brodeur with shots.

Sunday night, Carolina accomplished both. And because of it, Staal’s season ain't over yet.

Staal had two goals and an assist, Ray Whitney had a goal and three assists and Cam Ward made 28 saves as the Hurricanes staved off elimination with a convincing 4-0 win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at the RBC Center.

The series is now tied 3-3, with the deciding Game 7 to be played at the Prudential Center on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN2, RIS). It marks the first Game 7 for both teams since their last Stanley Cup championships (New Jersey, 2003; Carolina, 2006).

"He clearly enjoyed playing tonight," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said of Staal. "That extra energy of desperation … certain players really enjoy that."

Carolina scored the much-needed first goal when Whitney notched his second of the playoffs 10:32 into the game. After the 'Canes failed to convert on a power play, Whitney took a pass from behind the net from Staal and swatted it past Martin Brodeur as Carolina grabbed a 1-0 lead.

"It was big. The first goal's been very big in this series," Staal said. "You want to stay on the attack and we just kept rolling. We had a lot of chances early in the game, but they just didn't fall. We stayed on the attack and stayed with it. It was a good win."

Staal put the 'Canes up by a pair at 4:44 of the second period. Carolina capitalized on a turnover by Devils defenseman Paul Martin, as Whitney stole the puck and fed Staal, who ripped a wrist shot from between the circles past Brodeur to make it 2-0. It was Staal's third goal of the playoffs.

Staal gave Carolina a three-goal lead when he beat Brodeur on a one-timer from Whitney at 7:30.

"Tonight was a night where we capitalized on some odd-man (chances), and we buried them," Staal said. "We can't anticipate that every game. You've got to let it come to you. We need to be ready for a tight and hard-nosed game on Tuesday and be ready."

Ward -- who has been tremendous in this series -- kept the shutout intact when he made a sparkling glove save on a wrister by Brendan Shanahan midway through the second, and the 'Canes took the 3-0 edge into the locker room and outshot the Devils 29-15 through 40 minutes.

Things didn't get any better for New Jersey in the third, as Travis Zajac and John Madden received penalties just 42 seconds apart midway through the period. Carolina quickly capitalized on the two-man advantage, as Jussi Jokinen one-timed a feed from Whitney past Brodeur to make it 4-0. It was the Hurricanes' first power-play goal since Game 2 and only their second of the series.

It also ensured that there would be no repeat of Game 4, when Carolina blew a 3-0 lead only to win in the final second on a goal by Jokinen. This time, the Hurricanes knocked the Devils down and made sure they stayed down.

"We talked about approaching it the right way with the right mindset," Ward said. "There's no question that we were ready right from the drop of the puck. We played a complete 60 minutes, and that's what it takes. We had the 3-0 lead, but we didn't sit back because we've seen how leads can disappear quickly. It was great not to give them anything. The guys played very well in front of me."

Ward again held the Devils off the scoreboard when he slid across his crease and made a pad stop on a one-timer by Shanahan on a shorthanded chance with about 6:30 remaining.

"You have to shake it off … it's playoffs," New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. "It's still one game at a time. When the game's over, you move on. When we leave the rink, we've got to start getting ready for the next game. When you lose, you've got to shake it off and when you win, you've got to get ready for the next one, too. Both teams have shaken things off pretty well."

BThe Hurricanes desperately needed to score the first goal, and they got it when Ray Whitney beat Martin Brodeur at 10:32 of the opening period. The line of Whitney, Eric Staal and Chad LaRose did a tremendous job of keeping the puck in the Devils' zone before Whitney found the back of the net to give Carolina a 1-0 lead.

Hurricanes defenseman Joe Corvo, who played his best game of the series and kept it simple in his own end of the ice. Corvo logged 22:29 of ice time and was a plus-1.

Joni Pitkanen gave the Devils two chances to tie the game when he was handed back-to-back penalties in the latter portion of the first period. Not only did New Jersey fail to score, it failed to record a shot on either power play.

Staal's two goals in 2:46 during the second period were the fastest scored by one player in the postseason history of the Hartford/Carolina franchise.

Jamie Langenbrunner's return to New Jersey's lineup did little to spark the team's offense. The Devils have scored only one goal in their last two games and need to find a way to create more chances with their season on the line Tuesday night at The Rock.

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