Series (Game 2 of 4)

Carolina leads 2-1

Game 1: Wednesday, October 22nd
Game 2: Saturday, November 29th
Game 3: Thursday, December 18th
Game 4: Friday, March 19th

Penguins 3

(5-12-1, 15 pts)

Hurricanes 4

(7-10-0, 21 pts)

7:00 PM ET, November 29, 2003

PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina

1 2 3 T
PIT 1 1 13
CAR 0 3 14

R. Vrbata (Hurricanes - RW): Goals: 3, Assists: 0

M. Murray (Hurricanes - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

K. Koltsov (Penguins - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Carolina 4, Pittsburgh 3

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Radim Vrbata came to the Carolina Hurricanes last season in a trade that the team hoped would spark the offense.

On Saturday night, the 22-year-old right wing finally delivered.

After scoring just three goals this season, Vrbata had his second career three-goal game to lift the Hurricanes to a 4-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Marty Murray added a second-period goal for the Hurricanes, who controlled play in the final two periods. Kevin Weekes made 22 saves for Carolina, which outshot the Penguins 38-25.

Brian Holzinger, Patrick Boileau and Konstantin Koltsov scored for the Penguins, who have lost two straight.

The Hurricanes traded Bates Battaglia to Colorado for Vrbata in March. Vrbata had five goals in 10 games for Carolina last season, but struggled to find the net this year.

On Saturday night, Vrbata had eight shots, scoring off good passes from teammates and bad breaks for opponents. It was an effort that coach Paul Maurice said should improve Vrbata's confidence.

"When you get some points or goals, you feel a little better and you don't squeeze your stick so much," Vrbata said. "It helps."

Vrbata's last hat trick came in the Avalanche's 6-0 win against Minnesota on Feb. 8, 2002.

"We're all expecting him to break out of it any time soon," said Erik Cole, who assisted on Vrbata's last goal. "A player of his caliber, we're going to depend on him for some offense. And he showed his skill tonight."

The game was a matchup of struggling clubs in the 15-team Eastern Conference, with Carolina standing in 13th and Pittsburgh 14th. Each team had just two wins in its last 10 games and one in its last five.

But the Hurricanes won for the second time in three games on the strength of three second-period goals by Vrbata and Murray.

Trailing 1-0 after the first, Carolina tied it on a 5-on-3 power play 56 seconds into the period. Sebastien Caron stopped Jeff O'Neill's shot from the point, but Vrbata corralled a loose puck on the left side and scored. The goal came after Marc Bergevin was whistled for using a broken stick.

The Hurricanes pushed ahead when Murray scored his second of the season. Charging in on the right side, he faked a shot to draw Caron out, then skated behind the net and scored from the left side at 7:10.

"I knew (Caron) was kind of sprawled out on the other side," Murray said, "so I tried to get it into the net as quickly as I could."

Vrbata gave the Hurricanes a two-goal lead 4{ minutes later, taking advantage of another broken stick by the Penguins. This time, Drake Berehowsky's stick broke as he tried to pass the puck, leaving it loose deep in the Penguins' zone. Vrbata charged in and beat Caron from just outside the crease for the 3-1 lead at 11:36.

"It's unexplainable," Berehowsky said. "Sometimes ... you just have to battle through things like that."

Though the Penguins cut the lead to 3-2 on Boileau's goal late in the period, the Hurricanes outshot the Penguins 17-4.

Vrbata got the hat trick less than four minutes into the third, taking the pass from Cole on the boards and beating Caron from between the circles at 16:20 for a 4-2 lead.

Koltsov scored at 18:07 to cut the margin to one, but the Penguins couldn't tie it.

Game notes

Murray played in his 200th NHL game. ... The Hurricanes have had 30 or more shots in four of their last five games. ... Dick Tarnstrom extended his scoring streak to five games with an assist on Holzinger's goal. ... The Penguins have been outscored 28-7 in the opening period this season. ... Carolina is 3-3-4 against Atlantic Division teams this season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press