Rangers fall flat against Carolina

March 9, 2009 7:05:24 PM PDT
Cam Ward stopped 28 shots in his fifth shutout of the season and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 3-0 on Monday night to match a season high with their fourth straight victory. Joe Corvo and Rod Brind'Amour scored, and Tuomo Ruutu added an empty-netter for the Hurricanes.

Carolina jumped from ninth in the Eastern Conference into a tie for fifth with Montreal with 77 points in the crowded playoff chase, and has won eight of 10 while equaling the four-game winning streak they had in late December and early January.

The Rangers had their three-game winning streak snapped and dropped out of a playoff position for the first time this season.

New York, ninth in the East, is 3-2-1 since coach John Tortorella replaced the fired Tom Renney.

Making his 15th straight start, Ward polished off his 10th career shutout with a stick save on Sean Avery's wrist shot with about 2 minutes left. That came after the Rangers pulled goalie Steve Valiquette for an extra attacker.

Valiquette, starting in place of Henrik Lundqvist, made 33 saves in his first appearance since Feb. 15. Lundqvist backstopped the Rangers' 4-3 victory Sunday over NHL-leading Boston. The Rangers were denied their first four-game winning streak since October, and were shut out for the first time since a 2-0 defeat at Ottawa on Jan. 10.

But New York slowed a Carolina offense that scored 15 goals in two games since reacquiring Erik Cole at the trade deadline. The Hurricanes scored nine in their previous game, their biggest outburst since the franchise moved from Hartford in 1997.

This intense, physical matchup of playoff contenders had a postseason feel, and one goal was all the Hurricanes needed.

Carolina's Matt Cullen won a draw with Brandon Dubinsky in the Hurricanes zone, and the former Rangers forward blocked Michal Rozsival's shot. Cullen brought the puck down the boards before throwing it toward the net and off Valiquette's pads. Corvo swooped in and tapped in the rebound for his 13th goal - by far the most by any Hurricanes defenseman - 9:01 into the second period.

Brind'Amour made it 2-0 during a power play early in the third period. He skated into the left circle and one-timed the puck past Valiquette for his 10th goal and second in two games.

The loudest non-goal cheers of the night came late in the second, when Rangers pest Sean Avery was called for interference as he collided with Corvo in front of Ward. Playing his third game since returning to the Rangers, the noted agitator was booed nearly every time he touched the puck.

The night didn't go much better for the rest of his teammates, either, starting shortly after they appeared to take a 1-0 lead 3½ minutes in. The goal was waved off because the play was set up by a hand pass.

Notes: Rangers C Scott Gomez and RW Nikolai Zherdev had their three-game goal streaks ended. ... The game was the 600th in a Carolina uniform for Brind'Amour, and the 200th for Cullen. ... The Hurricanes called up C Brandon Sutter from Albany (AHL) before the game, but he didn't play. ... Jim Craig, the goalie for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that captured the gold medal, sounded the "Hurricane warning" siren before the game.