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Malhotra, Gerbe help Hurricanes to third win in row

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes owe much of their recent success to Alexander Semin, Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty. The Hurricanes put their top line from last season back together, and it quickly led to three wins in four games.

Saturday, the Hurricanes' other forwards made the difference.

Manny Malhotra had two goals and an assist, and Nathan Gerbe had three points when the Hurricanes defeated the Ottawa Senators 6-3 for their third straight win.

Carolina (23-19-9) moved four games over .500 for the first time this season.

"For us to be successful continuously, we have to get effort from all four lines," Malhotra said. "Not only offensively, but defensively we're expecting a lot out of each other. It's nice when we can contribute like that."

Most of the action was confined to the second period. After Gerbe scored to put Carolina up 1-0 in the first, the teams combined for seven second-period goals, some of them the result of sloppy defensive coverage.

"People got their money's worth," said Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera, who had two assists. "At the end of the day, we won the game, so that's a good feeling. That's a huge two points for us."

Carolina scored 23 seconds apart in the second period, beginning when Semin made a perfect lead pass through the neutral zone to Staal, who beat goalie Robin Lehner through the legs at 6:05.

Malhotra made it 3-0 when he buried Gerbe's pass from the left wing. Malhotra finished from the top of the crease after Gerbe lifted a saucer pass across the slot.

"It was a big night for our line," Gerbe said. "Any time a third line can step up and contribute like that, it's going to help this team."

Riley Nash pushed the score to 4-0 at 13:23 after Sekera held a puck in at the blue line before circling and finding Nash in the slot. The Senators left Nash plenty of time to pick a spot with Lehner on his knees.

"We didn't sort it out very good," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "[Nash] had time to fluff it up, put it on a tee and hit it real hard. Our defensive posturing and competition level wasn't good enough."

A little more than two minutes later, Kyle Turris put the Senators on the board. Clarke MacArthur gathered the rebound of Eric Gryba's shot and slid it to Turris, who had a wide-open net at 13:58.

Turris scored his second of the game at 17:45 with the Senators shorthanded. With Chris Neil in the box on a four-minute high-sticking penalty, MacArthur fed a diagonal pass to Turris, who scored his 17th of the season. Turris has 10 goals in his past 15 games.

The Hurricanes extended the lead to 5-2 when Tuomo Ruutu beat Lehner off the glove at 19:27. The Senators answered 10 seconds later; Carolina goaltender Anton Khudobin fumbled a rebound in the crease, and Mika Zibanejad popped the loose puck into the net.

"We can't give them the freebies," said Khudobin, who stopped 23 shots and is 10-3-0. "If you put in a lot of work to score four goals, you can't give them a chance to get back in the game. We can learn from that. At least we won the game."

Staal also expressed concern for Carolina's breakdowns after taking a four-goal lead.

"They've got some skill and talent," Staal said. "If you get a little bit loose, they can make you pay. They scored a couple quick ones on a couple breakdowns, but our mental recovery in the second intermission and the ability to focus in the third was excellent."

Lehner was replaced by Craig Anderson to start the third period after allowing five goals on 22 shots. Anderson stopped the nine shots he faced.

Malhotra provided the only score of the third period, an empty-net goal at 18:19.

After a 6-0-1 stretch, the Senators have slipped to 1-2-2 in their past five, giving up 19 goals during the skid. Ottawa is 22-20-10.

"You can't play catch-up hockey all the time," MacLean said. "You'll never have any chance to be successful consistently. Today we played catch-up the whole game. We turned over pucks and we weren't in the right spots and we didn't compete hard enough in our own zone."

The game was originally scheduled for Friday but was moved to Saturday after Carolina's Tuesday night game against the Philadelphia Flyers was postponed by bad weather and played Wednesday.

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