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Ward, Carolina are great shakes

Mark Recchi, Frantisek Kaberle, Matt Cullen, and Eric Staal celebrate Kaberle’s tying goal.
Mark Recchi, Frantisek Kaberle, Matt Cullen, and Eric Staal celebrate Kaberle’s tying goal. (Reuters Photo)

RALEIGH, N.C. -- 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, last 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 will face the Buffalo Sabres next, with the survivor advancing to the Stanley Cup final.

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.

Ward finished with 17 saves, including 10 in the first period when Carolina played shorthanded for eight 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.

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 three-on-two -- Brian Rafalski and Brad Lukowich were back on defense -- and the Hurricanes had the lead.

Stillman later left the game with an apparent leg injury, sustained when he and Lukowich got tangled up along the boards.

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

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