for this game

Hurricanes ride power play past Capitals

Feb 24, 2008 - 3:17 AM By Joe Johnson PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) -- The Carolina Hurricanes tightened their grip on first place in the Southeast Division with a 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

Matt Cullen scored a pair of power-play goals and All-Star Eric Staal recorded his 30th tally as the Hurricanes won for the sixth time in their last seven games at home.

Erik Cole, Andrew Ladd and defenseman Joe Corvo scored the other goals for Carolina. Staal and Corvo added two assists apiece as the division-leading Hurricanes opened a six-point lead over the Capitals.

"It feels good, but we certainly can't get complacent," Cullen said. "That's something that we've talked a lot about - that there's no room for complacency at this point in the season. We need to just keep winning and focus on getting as many points as we can."

Blue-liner Mike Green, Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich scored for the Capitals. Superstar Alex Ovechkin recorded assists on all three goals but failed to tally for the fourth straight game - his longest drought of the season.

"It's an uphill battle now," Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig said. "We still have these guys two more times. ... There is still a lot of hockey left to be played. We have to play like every game could be our last one."

Staal put the Hurricanes ahead to stay, converting a rebound in the slot at 16:39 of the middle session for a 4-3 edge.

Ladd gave Carolina a two-goal cushion 3:50 into the third, lifting a rebound over sprawled Kolzig, who was unable to get his glove high enough at the right goalpost.

Corvo made it 6-3 with Carolina's fourth power-play goal, stuffing in a shot that Kolzig slowed but did not cover in the crease at 7:44 of the final period.

"We're playing hard and the right way," Staal said. "We're competing and winning battles for pucks, and when you do that consistently, it results in wins. Here at home, we've been real good at that and it's resulted in some good hockey."

Green opened the scoring for Washington when he jumped up to create an odd-man rush, took a pass from Ovechkin and slid the puck underneath netminder Cam Ward's pads at 6:06 of the first.

Cullen tied the game at 1-1 with 6:36 remaining in the period, when he dragged the puck across the high slot and blasted a slap shot by Kolzig, who was screened by multiple Hurricanes. It broke a string of 22 straight penalties successfully killed by Washington.

Semin scored less than three minutes later on the power play for Washington, giving the Capitals a 2-1 lead after one.

Washington opened the game with a 10-2 advantage in shots but was unable to maintain its aggressiveness.

"If we don't learn how to do that for 60 minutes, then we're never going to have any success," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You can't just do it for 20 minutes. There's 20 games left. An awful lot can happen in 20 games. One week can turn things one way or the other. We've just got to get back to believing again."

Cullen struck again at 3:43 of the second to make it 2-2. He buried another rebound Kolzig was unable to control just three seconds before Tomas Fleischmann's hooking penalty expired.

Cullen, who was playing in his fifth game after missing seven with distorted vision, was moved to the point on Carolina's power play, and it made a difference. Carolina entered the game having failed to convert 16 straight man-advantage opportunities but went 4-for-7 against Washington.

"It's not just about his shot," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "Obviously that's important, but it's the way he moves and the way he brings it up the ice. They move together out there, and that just creates openings and seams and opportunities."

"I enjoy playing on the point. I enjoy being out there, and we have some good guys that can move the puck," Cullen said. "I'm allowed to just kind of find holes and play as a forward on the point a little bit and shoot pucks when I can. And it's been working pretty good."

Cole gave Carolina its first lead with another power-play tally at 5:56 to make it 3-2, but Laich evened the contest at 8:47 with a man-advantage goal.

Ward made 31 saves to improve to 5-0-1 in his last six outings. The Hurricanes outshot the Capitals, 42-36, giving them at least 35 shots in each of their last three games.

Kolzig turned aside 36 shots.