RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Two lucky bounces, a couple of
opportunities on the power play, and the Carolina Hurricanes were
off and running.
The New Jersey Devils? They simply got out of the way.
"We had our legs today, guys were skating well," Carolina
center Eric Staal said. "That's our game. If we're moving our
feet, we're going to create opportunities and power plays."
Ray Whitney scored two fortuitous goals, rookie Cam Ward got his
first career playoff shutout and the Hurricanes ended New Jersey's
15-game winning streak with a 6-0 victory Saturday in the opener of
the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
It was the first loss for the Devils since March 26 -- they won
the final 11 games of the regular season on the way to the Atlantic
Division, then swept the New York Rangers in the previous round.
The winning streak tied the longest in NHL history that encompassed
the regular season and playoffs.
"We're not looking for any excuses whatsoever," general
manager and coach Lou Lamoriello said. "We didn't do some of the
little things that we've been doing that gave us the success that
New Jersey never had a chance in this one. Maybe it was the
weeklong layoff between games, or perhaps it was the play of the
Hurricanes. Either way, the Devils must find a way to bounce back
for Game 2 on Monday night.
"We have to play as good or better on Monday night, so we're
not tooting our own horn here, or thinking we're something special
now," Whitney said.
Eric Staal, Cory Stillman, Doug Weight and captain Rod
Brind'Amour also scored for Carolina, which now has won five
straight in the postseason. Ward had to make only 21 saves,
continuing his impressive play after taking over for starter Martin
Gerber in the first period of the second game against Montreal.
The 22-year-old Ward finished with a 1.54 goals-against average
in that series, and he was even better against New Jersey.
"It's a team shutout, really," Ward said. "The team, I
thought, played outstanding. It was well-deserving of a shutout,
and any time you see them working that hard, especially in the
defensive zone, you want to match your effort with theirs."
His counterpart, Martin Brodeur, wasn't as fortunate on his 34th
birthday, suffering the worst playoff loss of his career and
getting pulled late in the third period.
"Losing 6-0 in the first game of the series is not something to
look back on," Brodeur said. "A lot of things went wrong. I don't
think you can point at one thing. Our special teams were not up to
Whitney got it started early, scoring on the power play to give
the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead. He tried to center the puck through the
crease and Brodeur swiped at it with his stick, knocking the puck
off the skate of defenseman Brad Lukowich and back through his legs
into the net.
This was unfamiliar territory for the Devils, who trailed for
only 4:39 in the entire series against the Rangers.
"These guys are so much quicker," Brodeur said. "They have
puck pressure everywhere. Their power play, they are definitely
doing something we're going to have to take a look at."
It got worse in the second period, with Whitney again putting
the puck in the net. He skated in to the right of Brodeur and sent
a pass back through the crease. This time, Brodeur knocked it in
all by himself, and Carolina led 2-0. It was Whitney's third goal
of the playoffs, and none were actual shots on the net.
"I'm trying to make a pass, and it goes off somebody and goes
in," he said. "It's not pretty, but I'll take it."
Perhaps the turning point came about 3 minutes later, when the
Hurricanes killed back-to-back penalties that included 9 seconds of
5-on-3. First, Aaron Ward went off for hooking, and seconds after
he returned, Bret Hedican was called for tripping.
"Special teams are huge this time of year, we know that,"
Brind'Amour said. "It was in our favor. The bad thing about is it
really doesn't matter now. It is absolutely over, and the next game
is going to be a whole new thing."
New Jersey failed to mount any real offense during that stretch.
Later in the period, Carolina took control, thanks to some
undisciplined play by the Devils. Sergei Brylin and Jamie
Langenbrunner went to the penalty box to give up an extended
two-man advantage. Brind'Amour came on to win the ensuing faceoff
and got the puck to Staal, who went to the net to beat Brodeur.
"We're not happy about the result," New Jersey center Patrik
Elias said. "This is the playoffs and we have to take it as it is.
Our special teams didn't do a good job and theirs did. That was the
main reason why they won."
Carolina still had 1:51 left of 5-on-4, and Stillman easily put
in a rebound for a 4-0 lead. Weight and Brind'Amour added goals in
third period to complete the rout and send Brodeur to the bench.
Backup Scott Clemmensen got the first playoff action of his career.
"The thing you've got to remember, it's just one win, it's one
out of four," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "You'd rather
have it in the bank, but there's still a lot of work left."
Commodore and New Jersey RW Cam Janssen squared off in the
third period, with Janssen losing his helmet. Both players got in
some punches before tiring out and heading to the penalty box. ...
The Devils' winning streak matched that of the 1954-55 Detroit Red
Wings, who won their second straight Stanley Cup title that season.