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Hurricanes top Oilers as Muller gets first win

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It took five tries, but Kirk Muller finally owns his first NHL coaching victory.

The Carolina Hurricanes ended a seven-game losing streak, including four under Muller, by beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 at Rexall Place on Wednesday night.

The 'Canes got goals by Jeff Skinner, Jamie McBain, Patrick Dwyer, Chad LaRose and Tuomo Ruutu, as well as two assists by Tomas Kaberle. Cam Ward made 22 saves for the Hurricanes, who are still last in the Eastern Conference with a 9-17-4 record.

Muller, who was hired on Nov. 28 when Paul Maurice was fired, was happy and relieved to have a victory to his name.

"It feels good," he said. "The game is all about emotion. You have nights you want to forget and nights that are fun. To get the first win is night, and I'm really proud of the way the guys played hard after last night [a 7-6 loss in Calgary]."

Muller said the win will make it easier for him to get his message across to a team that

"With some of these games, we thought we deserved better; we played well but we were not getting the breaks," he said. "That's what happens with teams that go through these ruts. We just had to tell them, 'Listen, believe in it, believe in it.' We're starting to get an identity now.

"You can throw these things out to guys, but [it's not] until they see results that they really, truly believe. This will be a big game for getting us over the hump."

The Hurricanes haven't had much to smile about -- they hadn't won since beating the Flyers in Philadelphia on Nov. 21, and hadn't earned a point since a 4-3 shootout loss in Montreal two nights later.

"It's nice to be able to smile after a game," Ward said. "It's been a while since we won a hockey game. We wanted to do this for Kirk, he's been great since he got here. We rebounded from a tough loss last night and played a really good hockey game. The bounces haven't been going our way but all you can do it stick with it. It was nice to have a night where our hard work paid off."

The slumping Oilers (13-12-3) got goals by Eric Belanger, Ben Eager and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but lost for the fifth time in six games.

"We didn't have enough passion to play," coach Tom Renney said. "We didn't have an emotional connection to the game. I'm pretty disappointed."

The Hurricanes had a goal overturned on video review eight minutes into the game when replay determined that LaRose kicked the rebound of his wraparound into the net. Edmonton had its first goal reviewed -- but this one stood when Magnus Paajarvi banked a shot off Carolina center Tim Brent and on net, where Ward trapped it under his stick. But in the ensuing scrum, Belanger hit the stick with his skate, sending the puck over the goal line. It counted -- giving Belanger his first goal of the season.

Skinner tied it with 40 seconds left in the period when a bad bounce off the glass put the puck in front of the net, and the second-year center snapped it home for a power-play goal. McBain's power-play goal at 4:36 of the second put the 'Canes ahead to stay.

Eric Staal sent Dwyer in alone, and Dwyer deked Dubnyk before scoring through the five-hole at 11:47. LaRose made it 4-1 at 15:41 when he beat Dubnyk, again through the legs, on a shorthanded 2-on-1 break.

Eager got that one back nine seconds later by beating Ward for his first of the season. But Ruutu's goal 3:43 into the third period gave the 'Canes some breathing room again.

"They played last night so we wanted to jump on them early, but they played a really good road game," Eager said of the Hurricanes.

Skinner had a chance for his second of the game after he was awarded a penalty shot seven minutes into the third period after being chopped by Theo Peckham, but fired into Dubnyk's pads. Nugent-Hopkins finished the scoring with 6:39 left, firing home a pass from Sam Gagner for his 13th goal and 30th point, both tops among rookies.

The Oilers, whose fast start made them the talk of the NHL in the first month of the season, continue to come back to earth

"We've got expectations inside of being a real good team," Renney said. "This one really hurts, it hurts everybody. The players are really disappointed in themselves."

Material from team media was used in this report
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