Final

Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series tied 1-1

Game 1: Tuesday, March 2nd
Blue Jackets3Final
Hurricanes0
Game 2: Monday, March 8th
Hurricanes4Final
Blue Jackets1

Hurricanes 4

(22-29-4, 61 pts)

Blue Jackets 1

(20-37-4, 52 pts)

7:00 PM ET, March 8, 2004

Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

1 2 3 T
CAR 2 0 24
CBJ 0 0 11

A. Ward (Hurricanes - D): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

A. Irbe (Hurricanes - G): Saves: 27, Save Pct.: .964

R. Nash (Blue Jackets - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Ward returns from injury to first 2-goal game

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Aaron Ward barely remembered the last time he scored two goals in one game.

"I think the last time was in pee wee, and I was playing forward back then," Ward said with a grin. "I had a lot more opportunities."

Ward provided instant offense in his return to the lineup and led the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.

Ward had missed 19 games with a wrist injury and was activated just before the game. He came in with only one goal this season in 34 games and just 23 in his seven years in the NHL.

It was Ward's first career two-goal game.

"I'm sure he was eager to get back in the lineup," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's been skating for a long time. His hand was hurt, but his legs weren't. I'm sure he was anxious to get back in the game. And he played a pretty good game both defensively and offensively."

Getting back into action was a relief for Ward.

"It was five straight weeks of killer skates -- suicide skates. It was nice to get back," Ward said. "I still have a fair amount of room for improvement. I didn't feel like I had sufficient game legs, but it was fine for the first time back."

Rookie Eric Staal had a career-high two assists for the Hurricanes, who also got goals from Erik Cole and Craig Adams. Adams' goal was short-handed into an empty net. He also had an assist.

"Anytime you can get two points on the board, especially in a win, it's very nice," Staal said. "I've been playing all right the last bunch of games and the points haven't been coming."

The Blue Jackets embarrassed the Hurricanes 3-0 in Raleigh last Tuesday night behind Marc Denis' 25 saves. Rick Nash, Trevor Letowski and Manny Malhotra scored the goals in that victory.

Columbus ended a scoreless streak of 114 minutes, 23 seconds when Nash scored his NHL-leading 37th goal with 7:42 remaining. It was Nash's 19th power-play goal this season, extending his league lead.

Nash said the Blue Jackets didn't play together.

"There were a lot of individual efforts, and we were all guilty of it," he said.

Arturs Irbe, 2-0-1 since returning to the Hurricanes after a stint in the minors, stopped 27 shots.

"I wanted to play back in this league because down deep I knew I belonged here," he said. "I definitely have lots and lots left in my tank."

The Hurricanes scored twice within 58 seconds of the first period.

Ward scored his second of the season on the power play at 13:03. Ron Francis slid a pass from the right wing to Ward in the left circle, with Ward skating to the dot and wristing a shot that beat Fred Brathwaite low on the stick side.

Cole made it 2-0 with his 15th, zipping a shot past defenseman Scott Lachance and Brathwaite. Rod Brind'Amour set it up with a nifty pass through the crease.

Columbus' Tyler Wright was hit in the face by a puck as the Hurricanes came up the ice on the rush. He immediately skated to the dressing room, giving Carolina a man advantage on the play. He returned later in the game.

Ward's second goal came on a blast from the right circle off an assist from Josef Vasicek early in the third period for a 3-0 lead.

He wasn't gunning for a hat trick.

"It was too good to be true," he said with a laugh. "I'm not that kind of guy. I don't have that kind of luck."

Nash finally broke through for the Blue Jackets. He came on the ice on a change and almost immediately took a pass from David Vyborny at the blue line. Nash carried the puck past Bruno St. Jacques and muscled his way by Sean Hill. He deked Irbe to score easily.

Interim Columbus coach Gerard Gallant was upset with his club's effort.

"Nobody goes to the front of the net. Nobody wants to pay a price to go to the net," he said. "We aren't going to win if we don't go to the net."

Game notes


Carolina RW Jeff O'Neill did not make the trip because of a shoulder injury. ... Columbus activated D Duvie Westcott and sent D Darrel Scoville to Syracuse of the AHL. Westcott missed 15 games because of a broken hand. ... Cole extended his point streak to three games.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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