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Hurricanes dump Devils on way to East finals

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The handshake line formed as it always does
at the end of an NHL playoff series, and Carolina goalie Cam Ward
finally got his first face-to-face meeting with idol and
counterpart, Martin Brodeur.

"He just wished me well and said, 'Go all the way,' and I just
expressed to him that, in my eyes, he's the best," Ward said.

This time, it simply wasn't true.

Ward steadied himself following a rocky start, Cory Stillman got
the go-ahead goal on Carolina's first power play midway through the
second period and the Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils 4-1
Sunday night to win the best-of-seven series in five games.

"I think we deserved it," Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour
said. "We were the better team, we felt it right from Game 1, and
now we're moving on."

Frantisek Kaberle, Ray Whitney and Eric Staal also scored for
the Hurricanes, who have won eight of their past nine games in the
playoffs. They finished off a winning series at home for the first
time in franchise history -- and will face the Buffalo Sabres next,
with the survivor advancing to the Stanley Cup final.

"The feeling is the same, it's that sense of relief," Carolina
defenseman Aaron Ward said. "If we didn't do it here, and we
didn't approach this like it was our Game 7, what kind of bed are
we making for ourselves? The coaching staff preached this was the
end-all, be-all game, and we had to take it right now and seize
it."

The Devils took a 1-0 lead less than a minute after the opening
faceoff, when Brian Gionta took advantage of a fortuitous bounce to
beat Ward -- the 22-year-old rookie netminder who was pulled after
allowing four goals in a little more than one period Saturday. New
Jersey won that game 5-1 to avoid a sweep, but Ward bounced back to
end the Devils' season a day later.

"Those type of games happen, that's the beauty of a seven-game
series," Ward said. "We were able to have a chance to redeem
ourselves in the next 24 hours. I think it's just important to how
you respond to those situations, and obviously, we responded very
well."

He finished with 17 saves, including 10 in the first period when
Carolina played short-handed for 8 minutes. The Devils failed to
capitalize on any of those power plays, and Kaberle tied the score
on the Hurricanes' second shot of the game.

It came when teammate Matt Cullen beat John Madden on a faceoff,
and Mark Recchi got the puck to Kaberle along the wall. His shot
ricocheted off Devils defenseman Paul Martin and past Brodeur,
electrifying another capacity crowd at the RBC Center.

"You sit back a little bit on your heels and wait and see
what's going on," Brodeur said. "The crowd's able to turn around
their team and tweak them up by one little hit, one little save on
net. It's just an opportunity missed. That's the bottom line."

After Carolina killed off another penalty early in the second
period, New Jersey was called for its first infraction. Defenseman
David Hale was sent to the box for cross-checking, and Stillman
made the Devils pay 50 seconds later.

Brind'Amour carried the puck in and passed to Justin Williams,
who quickly fed Stillman on the doorstep with Brodeur out of
position. It completed a nifty 3-on-2 -- Brian Rafalski and Brad
Lukowich were back on defense -- and the Hurricanes had the lead.

"It was great that we finally got a power play," Brind'Amour
said. "You don't see it very often, where we score on the rush,
but it was nice that we were able to tic-tac-toe it around."

Stillman later left the game with an apparent leg injury, when
he and New Jersey defenseman Brad Lukowich got tangled up along the
boards. He was helped off the ice by Brind'Amour and Williams, then
headed straight to the locker room.

"At this time, without extensive work from the hospital, it
doesn't appear serious," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said.

And Ward helped his team stay in front. He was surprisingly
unflappable following his performance Saturday, even after Gionta's
early goal on New Jersey's first shot. Zach Parise chased down the
puck in the corner, and his whirling shot bounced off the knees of
Carolina defenseman Mike Commodore.

It skittered to Gionta, who controlled it with his skate before
lifting the puck over Ward's shoulder into the back of the net. The
goal ended a four-game pointless streak for Gionta, the worst
stretch of the season for the Devils' leading scorer.

"When you get the opportunities that we had there, you can take
the momentum right out of the game," New Jersey general manager
and coach Lou Lamoriello said. "That's what happens in these types
of games. We just didn't get it done."

Game notes
New Jersey D Colin White, who missed five games with a
groin injury before playing in the final three of this series,
finished without a point in four games in the postseason. ...
Referee Mike Leggo made an interesting call late in the first
period, stopping play even though the puck was loose beside
Brodeur. The goalie was prone on his back, and Cullen was furiously
poking at the puck when the whistle blew. ... Devils D Tommy
Albelin, who will turn 42 next week, picked up the puck when the
game ended -- an indication he might retire.