<
>

Eric Staal helps Hurricanes overcome scary injury, Pens

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Carolina Hurricanes always seem to leave
Pittsburgh with a victory and a scary injury.

Eric Staal got Carolina's go-ahead goal early in the game to win
his personal matchup with younger brother Jordan Staal and the
Hurricanes overcame a second frightening injury in Pittsburgh in
seven months to beat the Penguins 5-1 Saturday night.

A night after needing Ray Whitney's goal with half a second
remaining to beat Atlanta 4-3 for the Stanley Cup champions' first
victory in five games, Carolina effectively wrapped this one up in
a few minutes. Scott Walker scored midway through the first period
for the first of his two goals, and the Hurricanes were in control
after that to improve to 8-1-1 in Pittsburgh since the 1999-2000
season.

Walker's first goal came less than a minute after forward Trevor
Letowski was carried off on a stretcher with a concussion, leaving
behind a pool of blood on the ice from a forehead gash. Letowski
was leveled on a blindside hit by Pittsburgh's Colby Armstrong
moments after making a pass and lay motionless for several minutes.

"Any time anything happens like that, it's a terrible incident
and you don't wish it on any player in any sport," Carolina coach
Peter Laviolette said.

Letowski, in his eighth NHL season, was playing again after
being a healthy scratch Friday. Despite being knocked unconscious
briefly, he returned to the team in time to fly home after
receiving stitches to close the gash in a nearby hospital.

Armstrong was not penalized, but Laviolette was unhappy Letowski
was leveled without being able to protect himself.

"It was a tough hit, it was unfortunate," Laviolette said.
"You can make argument it was a little bit late. He had passed the
puck, it was gone, one second, two seconds, and Trevor didn't see
it coming."

Armstrong defended the hit, but said he felt "awful, sick to my
stomach" and had trouble keeping his mind on the game after that.

"It was a little tough," he said. "I had to take it a shift
at a time. ... The other guys told me it's part of the game, but it
was tough. I'm not a dirty player."

Erik Cole, Carolina's standout left wing, did not score in his
first game in Pittsburgh since breaking his neck while being rammed
into the boards from behind by Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik
on March 4. Cole missed the rest of the season and did not return
until Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.

"Last year it was Erik [Cole] and this year it was Trevor,"
goalie Cam Ward said. "It [Letowski's injury] was an unfortunate
situation and was tough to watch on the ice."

This time, Eric Staal scored his third goal of the season and
fifth in five games against Pittsburgh the last two seasons when he
swiped the puck off rookie defenseman Kristopher Letang's stick and
put it past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in a single motion about 2½
minutes in.

Jordan Staal, an 18-year-old Penguins rookie playing against his
older brother for the first time in the NHL, did not score one game
after getting his first NHL goal.

"We didn't talk before the game, but I was text messaging him
during lunch and we had some good jabbers going back and forth,"
said Eric Staal, one of four hockey-playing brothers, three of whom
have been drafted by NHL teams. "It was the first time I had
played against one of my brothers [professionally] and it was
different."

Pittsburgh, outscored 7-1 at home in losing its last two games
there, tried to get back in it by holding Carolina without a shot
during a two-man advantage that lasted 1 minute, 57 seconds in the
second period. But one second after the second penalty expired,
Walker got his second goal of the game and third of the season by
redirecting Whitney's pass past Fleury.

Fleury was lifted three minutes later with a cut near an eyebrow
after allowing three goals on 20 shots, but he was not seriously
hurt. Jocelyn Thibault replaced him for his first game action since
undergoing hip surgery in January.

Game Notes
The Letowski injury occurred a night after Carolina,
already missing forward Cory Stillman and defenseman Frantisek
Kaberle with shoulder injuries, had forward Andrew Ladd (arm) and
defenseman Bret Hedican (upper body) go down. Hedican apparently
injured a shoulder, but his status is uncertain. ... Mike Commodore
added his first goal of the season in the third period and had an
assist. Whitney had two assists. ... The Staal vs. Staal matchup
may not be repeated this season since Pittsburgh is expected to
send Jordan Staal back to his junior team before his NHL contract
would kick in at 10 games.