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Hurricanes end 14-game skid with shootout win

by Brian Hunter /
Everyone associated with the Carolina Hurricanes can breathe a giant sigh of relief -- the streak is over.

Jussi Jokinen scored the only goal in the shootout and the Hurricanes survived blowing leads of 3-0 and 4-1 as they edged the Minnesota Wild in a shootout Sunday afternoon, 5-4, at the RBC Center.

"We're not throwing any back at this point," coach Paul Maurice said. "This is a huge win. What kind of conversation would we be having now after a 4-1 lead if we had lost that game. This was enormous for our players -- and staff. It's half a night's sleep anyway -- and then we'll be back at it."

Joe Corvo, Ray Whitney and Brandon Sutter scored power-play goals and Jokinen also scored in regulation for Carolina, which won for the first time since a 7-2 rout of Florida on Oct. 9. Its ensuing winless streak (0-10-4), which included an overtime loss in Minnesota on Oct. 24, tied the franchise record originally set by Hartford in 1992.

"Oh man, it has been such a long time, it's relief more than anything," said Whitney, who added two assists for a three-point effort. "You still scratch your head as to why we gave up a three-goal lead, but in the end we'll take what we got."  

Robbie Earl scored twice, the second coming 2:21 into the third period as the Wild came all the way back and put a scare into the home fans.

Earl and John Scott each scored his first NHL goals just 19 seconds apart and Antti Miettinen also lit the lamp during a three-goal second period for Minnesota.

"We started off slow and we made some adjustments in the second," Earl said. "We just got our bounces, kept it simple and did what we wanted to do from the get-go. We had our opportunities to win that game but it's also another good thing that we rebounded well and it's a good experience for our team."

Jokinen put a backhander top shelf on Niklas Backstrom in the second round of the shootout. He scored for the 25th time since the penalty-shot tiebreaker was introduced for the 2005-06 season, making him the most prolific in the League.

"He's the guy I practiced the most against in Finland because we've been playing on the same team for years and we practice shootouts with each other in the summer time," Jokinen said of Backstrom. "I didn't want to shoot against him because he knows me too well. It was a big mental battle."

Wild captain Mikko Koivu had a chance to respond, but the puck rolled off his stick as he skated in on net, and Hurricanes goalie Michael Leighton made a stop on Marek Zidlicky to end the game and bring his teammates off the bench in celebration.

"I watch a lot of highlights on 'NHL on the Fly' so I know a lot of moves from different guys and I played with him so it helped," Leighton said of Zidlicky, a teammate of his briefly in Nashville several years back.

The win still came at a price for Carolina, which saw forwards Scott Walker (upper body) and Stephane Yelle (lower body) and defenseman Joni Pitkanen (lower body) all leave with injuries and not return.

Jokinen got the Hurricanes on the scoreboard just 2:45 into the first period. Matt Cullen won an offensive zone draw and Tuomo Ruutu pushed the puck forward at the goal. Backstrom fended it off, but with a delayed penalty being called on the Wild, Jokinen cleaned up the rebound for his fourth goal of the season.

Then the Carolina power play got going, with Ruutu screens playing a key role in a pair of goals.

Corvo made it 2-0 with 2:11 left in the first and Koivu in the box for tripping. Bryan Rodney sent a pass from the right point across to Corvo, whose one-timer eluded Backstrom with Ruutu set up in front of the goalie.

Whitney needed all of 11 seconds to convert a tripping penalty to Derek Boogaard, taking a Sutter feed and wristing a shot from the left-wing boards past a screened Backstrom 4:59 into the second.

Miettinen got the Wild on the board at 8:43 by deflecting in a Brent Burns shot from the point, but Cal Clutterbuck was sent off for roughing at 9:58 and the Hurricanes struck for their third power-play goal of the game just 10 seconds later as Whitney sent a pass into the slot and Sutter slipped it into the cage.

The comfortable lead wouldn't last, as Earl, playing in his second NHL game this season, cruised out from behind the net and beat Leighton through a screen with 6:14 left in the second. Scott, a defenseman, followed by shoveling home a loose puck in the slot for his first goal in 35 games.

"It's pretty special," said Earl, who was recently called up from Houston of the AHL. "It hasn't really sunk in, but I'm ultimately just glad I was able to contribute and give us a chance to win."

Material from team broadcast and online media was used in this report.

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