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Williams powers Hurricanes to rout of Lightning

Oct 17, 2006 - 2:00 AM TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- Justin Williams ended a streak for himself and his team in grand style.

Williams recorded a hat trick to power the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-1 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning in a matchup of the past two Stanley Cup champions.

It was the first three goals of the season for Williams, who had a breakout season in 2005-06 with 31 tallies and 45 assists in helping the Hurricanes to their first championship in franchise history.

"I had never had one (a hat trick) before. I've sometimes been around it, but never actually got it," Williams said. "It's also nice to get off the goose egg for me, too. Sometimes they find a way to go in. I found myself having a lot of scoring opportunities tonight and sometimes that's the way the puck goes.

"Some nights you get a lot of chances and the puck bounces your way and it sometimes always finds your stick. Other nights you kind of feel invisible out there."

Williams helped end a lengthy spell of futility for Carolina in Tampa Bay. The Hurricanes were 0-2-2 last season at the St. Pete Times Forum and had won just three times in their last 14 visits here.

Williams also assisted captain Rod Brind'Amour's goal that opened the scoring.

Carolina (3-3-1) won its third straight game after opening the season with four straight losses.

"Tonight lets us step out of the hole to get back to par. We're back even," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "Justin is a very effective player when he's strong on the puck. Pound for pound he's one of the strongest guys in the league."

Eric Belanger added a power-play tally for the Hurricanes, who went 3-for-7 with the man advantage. Brind'Amour added two assists, as did Ray Whitney and Eric Staal.

Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward made 34 saves but was denied his first shutout of the season in the waning minutes.

"End of the day, it really doesn't matter (not getting the shutout)," Ward said. "In between intermissions we did the best we could to make sure we stuck to the program and kept our focus, especially in the second intermission.

"We didn't want to let off the gas, we wanted to play strong especially in the defensive zone. I thought the guys put in a really solid effort."

Williams tallied twice in a three-goal second period as Carolina built a 4-0 lead.

A suspect play by Lightning goaltender Marc Denis enabled Carolina to go ahead, 2-0, at 3:11 of the middle session. Denis inexplicably came diving far out of his crease and missed a puck that caromed off the boards to the right of the net.

Niclas Wallin shoveled a shot on goal as Denis scrambled back to the crease and Williams swooped in and twice swiped at the puck from the side of the net, the second of which deflected off Denis' right leg for his first goal.

Carolina pushed the lead to 3-0 at 9:08, using precision passing that resulted in Belanger's power-play goal.

From the left point, Staal slipped a pass to Whitney, who skated toward Denis before sliding a pass to a wide-open Bergeron at the left of the crease and he easily redirected the puck into the net.

That precipitated a brawl just seconds later as heavyweights Nick Tarnasky of Tampa Bay and Mike Commodore of Carolina traded some big punches.

Williams connected again to push the advantage to 4-0 with 2:39 left. Brind'Amour, stationed along the right wing boards, centered a pass to Russian defenseman Anton Babchuk and he one-timed a steaming shot that Williams tipped past Denis.

"I thought we played a really good first period," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "I thought it was a fun game. In the beginning of the second period - the first three or four shifts and really right on through - they fed it to us as far as grit."

Williams completed his hat trick just 37 seconds into the final period against backup goalie Johan Holmqvist, when he lifted a rebound over the shoulder of the Tampa Bay netminder.

The only suspense left was whether Ward could finish off the shutout. He made a superb stop of a backhander in close from Dmitry Afanasenkov at the 7:00 mark, but Tampa Bay finally broke through with 2:13 to play.

Nikita Alexeev did the honors, beating Ward from the left faceoff circle for his first goal of the season. Afanasenkov and Luke Richardson assisted on the tally.

"Cam won't say it , but we're a little upset that he didn't get the shutout," Williams said. "He played an unbelievable game tonight. He made some huge saves early on St. Louis (breakaways) to keep the game tied and we were able to get on a roll from there."

The Lightning (2-4) outshot the Hurricanes 35-23, including a 16-4 margin in the final period. They were 0-for-3 on the power play.

Brind'Amour got his first goal of the season just 3:28 into the game. Erik Cole took a cross-ice feed on the right side from Williams and, as he veered in on the net, slipped a backhand pass across the creased the caromed off the skate of Brind'Amour and into the net past a helpless Denis. It was Brind'Amour's 383rd goal of his career.

Martin St. Louis had two glittering scoring chances in the opening period for the Lightning, shooting just wide of the post on a breakaway and then getting turned away by Ward on a blistering shot from inside the faceoff circle while the Lightning were shorthanded.

"I'm frustrated, but am I down on myself? No. I'm going to keep working, keep creating opportunities and you've got to figure it will come through," St. Louis said. "I know I need to be scoring, but I can't get down on myself.

"On the breakaway, I made a good move. I'm not changing. I'm going to keep going to the net, keep bringing the puck to the net. It's going to open up. We're going to keep battling and we're going to keep working, until we get the result we want."

Ward made two dazzling saves with the Lightning on the power play with just under four minutes left in the opening period, reacting quickly to block Ryan Craig's waist-high tip-in attempt and scrambling to stuff Vaclav Prospal's rebound attempt.

"We needed Cam on more than one occasion to bale us out," Laviolette said. "That was one of the sharpest performances I've seen from him."

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