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Ladd stars for Jets in 500th career game

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd didn't need extra motivation on the occasion of his 500th NHL game. But if he had to play the Carolina Hurricanes -- the team that drafted him before trading him away -- then so much the better.

Ladd scored a goal and added two assists, lifting the Jets to a 4-3 wild, back-and-forth win.

Ladd's third-period goal gave the Jets to a 3-2 lead, the third time they jumped ahead of the Hurricanes. After Carolina tied it, Winnipeg would get the winner on Blake Wheeler's second of the night to capture their second game in a row.

"Obviously it's fun to play back in this building for No. 500," said Ladd, a member of Carolina's 2006 Stanley Cup winning team. "Anytime you have a team that trades you away, you have something to prove to that team. And I've got a lot of great memories and friends here."

Among the friends is Carolina goaltender Cam Ward. And sometime soon, Ward will have to hear about Ladd's exploits.

"Yeah, he does," said Ladd, who was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks by the Hurricanes in February 2008. "We had dinner last night, so maybe he will stop inviting me over for dinner."

The game lacked energy for most of 40 minutes. Ladd helped the Jets to a quick start less than two minutes in, skating through the neutral zone to set up Wheeler for a wrister that beat Ward to the far post.

Carolina tied the game 1-1 late in the period on a highlight-reel goal. Alex Semin whipped a no-look backhander through the crease to Jiri Tlusty, who tapped the puck home on the forehand.

But neither team could must much offense in the second period, leaving the outcome open-ended for the final 20 minutes.

"It was a pretty sloppy game for the first 40 minutes," Ladd said. "We came in here after the second, and we talked about how we knew we hadn't played very good, but there was still an opportunity to win this game. We got some timely goals."

Winnipeg's Evander Kane started the action in the third, sending a wrister past Ward on the short side, but Jordan Staal quickly countered for Carolina to make it 2-2.

Ladd put the Jets back on top, picking up a rebound in front for his ninth goal of the season. Then the Hurricanes answered again, this time on Tlusty's second of the night.

But the Jets had one more in the tank, when Wheeler got behind the Carolina defense and scored 1-on-1 against Ward.

"We got a couple leads and we weren't able to play the way we wanted to in our own zone," Wheeler said. "That's something we're going to want to work on. But there's two sides to that story. There's giving up the lead both times, but answering back says a lot about our group."

Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made a handful of key stops throughout the evening, earning his fifth win of the season with a 27-save performance.

"The third period was kind of crazy with all the goals," Pavelec said. "It could (have gone) both ways. We had some scoring chances, and the guys stepped up and scored some big goals for us."

Ward struggled in the Carolina net for the second straight game. On the heels of a 3-0 shutout loss to Montreal, Ward was unable to find his form. He entered with a 3.19 goals-against average, and afterward Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller tried to offer a balanced assessment of Ward's uneven play.

"I think he was hoping to come back with a big game after the last game in Montreal," said Muller, whose team has lost two in a row. "He's a good pro. He probably feels like he had an opportunity to make a few more saves. But this is where we are as a group. We have to challenge each other. We've got injuries. At the end of the day, there's no excuses."

The Hurricanes were playing with 50 percent of their regular defensemen on the shelf. Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain all sat out, opening the door for the NHL debut of Ryan Murphy. The Hurricanes' first-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft joined the team on emergency recall from the Kitchener Rangers and logged 23:51 of ice time.

Much of the talk in Winnipeg's dressing room surrounded the frightening injury to rookie defenseman Zach Redmond during the morning skate. Redmond fell and had the back of his leg cut by a teammate's skate, resulting in a tense 15-minute ordeal in which he lost a lot of blood before being taken to the hospital by ambulance. Redmond underwent surgery Thursday afternoon to repair a laceration to his right femoral artery and vein.

"It's shocking, your heart sinks into your stomach," said Ladd, who was in the dressing room but returned to the ice after the accident. "It's a really bad feeling, seeing a teammate in pain, sitting on the ice in a pool of blood. It's not something you ever want to see."

The danger was clear to all the Winnipeg players, who said the team's pregame meal was quiet as they awaited word on their teammate.

"You can't really put into word what goes through your mind when a teammate is hurt on the ice," Wheeler said. "All you can do is channel those emotions into going out and putting your best foot forward and finding a way to win for a teammate who may not be able to lace them up for a while."

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