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Carolina now just four points ahead in Southeast

4/4/2002

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A break here or there down the stretch can
make the difference in playoff position in the tight Eastern
Conference.

The New Jersey Devils got a pair of gifts in a 3-2 win over the
Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.

Jamie Langenbrunner scored with 16:15 left after a Carolina
clearing pass hit a linesman. And the Devils got another break late
in the second when Arturs Irbe skated into the corner to clear the
puck he eventually lost, leading to an easy New Jersey score.

"You're going to get those breaks back and forth, so you try
not to worry about too many when they happen, because you know
you'll get a break going the other way sometimes," Devils coach
Kevin Constantine said.

Langenbrunner's winner came on a breakaway after a clearing pass
by Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley hit linesman Tim Nowak and
bounced right to Patrik Elias at the blue line. Elias flipped a
pass to his wide open winger, who beat Irbe for his 13th of the
season.

Irbe said he had taken an elbow to the head a few minutes before
the goal from Valeri Kamensky.

"I was a little bit dazed at the time," Irbe said. "My head
was ringing for quite some time and I just made a couple of bad
judgment calls. I just wasn't sharp."

Carolina's lead in the Southeast Division, once 13 points,
narrowed to four with five games left after Washington beat Tampa
Bay 4-1. The Hurricanes are just 3-6-8 in their last 17 games at
the Entertainment and Sports Arena.

"We've worked hard to get here," Carolina coach Paul Maurice
said. "We're still in a good spot."

Meanwhile, the Devils, who have 85 points, improved to 9-3-0-1
in their last 13 games.

Martin Brodeur made a great blocker save on Jeff O'Neill from
the slot with 36.4 seconds left with Irbe pulled and Carolina with
an extra attacker.

"That's what he lives for," Maurice said of Brodeur. "He's
kind of got a history of sitting there, and you feel confident that
he's sometimes average throughout the game, but there are two or
three times where his greatness comes out, and that was a great
save."

Carolina lost more than the game. Top defensemen Wesley and Sean
Hill each left with injuries. Wesley's looked the worst when he
rammed his right shoulder into the boards after getting tangled
with Sergei Brylin with 10:29 left. Hill left in the second period
with a back injury.

Carolina managed just 10 shots on Brodeur through 30 minutes
before getting a break when Scott Stevens, last year's playoff
nemesis for the Hurricanes, took a questionable penalty for kneeing
Erik Cole.

A minute later, O'Neill scored his 30th with a quick wrist shot
that surprised Brodeur on the short side.

Ron Francis assisted on the goal. The Carolina captain has now
registered 50 or more assists in a season 16 times.

Less than four minutes after O'Neill tied it, Carolina rookie
Jaroslav Svoboda made a great individual play for his second goal
in four games since being called up from the minors.

The 21-year-old batted the puck out of the air at the blue line
and split New Jersey defenseman Ken Daneyko and Tommy Albelin, then
beat Brodeur on his stick side.

A Carolina miscue in its end cost the Hurricanes late in the
second.

Rod Brind'Amour failed to clear the zone along the left boards,
and Irbe was pinned in the opposite corner as he left the net to
try to clear the puck. That left the Carolina cage wide open and
Brylin tied it 2-2 with his 15th.

"That's when the momentum turned back in our favor,"
Constantine said.

Patrik Elias gave the Devils a 1-0 lead 30 seconds into Wesley's
cross-checking penalty, flipping a rebound high over a sprawled
Irbe.

Game notes
Carolina has scored at least one power-play goal in a
season-high seven straight games. ... O'Neill is the first Carolina
player to score 30 or more goals in consecutive seasons since Geoff
Sanderson did it in 1992-93 and 1993-94. ... Hurricanes RW Sami
Kapanen had his five-game point streak snapped. ... New Jersey was
playing its first game without Scott Gomez, who fractured his left
hand on Monday.