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Hurricanes beat Caps to close in on record

THE Carolina Hurricanes raced to their eighth consecutive home win on Saturday, crushing the Washington Capitals 4-1 behind Cam Ward's 31 saves.

Defensemen Joni Pitkanen, Anton Babchuk and Joe Corvo sparked the Carolina offense with three third-period goals against the Southeast Division-leading Capitals.

"Our defense has had a huge impact on how we play," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice told reporters.

"I don't know that we drew it up to have those defensemen standing in front of their net, but that's what they saw and that's what they read."

The late outburst broke a 1-1 tie and boosted the sixth-place Hurricanes (39-28-7) to 85 points in the tight Eastern Conference race.

They now trail No. 4 Philadelphia (38-22-10) and No. 5 Pittsburgh (39-26-8) by a point, one ahead of the New York Rangers (38-26-8).

"We're not secure yet," Carolina left wing Erik Cole said. "Plus we want to play like we're building toward something."

Stanley Cup run

The home win streak is one short of Carolina's team record, set during the Hurricanes' 2006 Stanley Cup run.

Elsewhere in the National Hockey League, it was: Sharks 5, Stars 2; Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 2; Senators 5, Islanders 2; Rangers 5, Sabres 3; Blue Jackets 3, Panthers 1; Thrashers 4, Lightning 3 (in a shootout); and Coyotes 5, Canucks 1.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour and Capitals defenseman Mike Green matched second-period goals before Carolina took over.

Pitkanen's backhander pushed Carolina ahead 2-1 4:42 into the third and Babchuk made it a two-goal advantage nine minutes later.

Corvo added a short-handed empty netter with about a minute to play. Washington's Alex Ovechkin tried unsuccessfully to beat the puck to the net, giving Corvo a career-equalling 14th goal for the season.

Ovechkin, who scored his 50th goal of his campaign against Tampa Bay on Thursday, helped set up Green's goal with his 44th assist.

The league MVP had been criticized for his exuberant celebration upon netting his 50th goal, where he dropped his stick near the net and pretended it was too hot to pick up.


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