PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Losing a player as valuable as Erik Cole to an
injury was bad enough for the Carolina Hurricanes. The way it
happened -- with Cole being run over from behind, in a game against
the NHL's worst-record team -- made them even more upset.
Cole scored two goals for the second night in a row before
getting hurt in the third period, and the Hurricanes chased both
Pittsburgh goalies in a 7-5 victory over the Penguins on Saturday
Cole left the ice in visible pain with 14½ minutes remaining,
clutching his right arm, after being driven headfirst into the
boards by the Penguins' Brook Orpik. Orpik drew a five-minute
boarding major and a game misconduct.
Cole, tied with Cory Stillman for second on the team in scoring
with 60 points, was taken to a hospital to be examined for what
coach Peter Laviolette said was a neck injury, but the team
disclosed no other details.
"I understand playing hard, but you don't run guys from behind
-- ever," captain Rod Brind'Amour said. "I mean I have played 100
years and I've never run a guy from behind. That's one of the best
players in the league, Erik Cole, and we need him, and these guys
aren't really playing for anything. It's frustrating."
Coach Peter Laviolette also was upset, saying, "It was not a
clean hit. Somebody is going to get hurt. Hopefully, our guy is not
as severely hurt."
Laviolette added, "He clearly could have let up on the hit and
he decided not to. He knew exactly what he was doing, he should
have let up."
Brind'Amour said Orpik has a reputation for hitting late and
from behind and, he said, "So put those two together, that's
pretty much what happened there."
If Cole's injury is serious, it could be a major setback to the
Hurricanes, who lead the NHL with 88 points after winning four in a
row, 10 of 13 and 19 of 23. Cole scored a goal in each of the first
two periods Saturday after scoring twice in a 5-2 victory at home
over Florida on Friday night.
"Hopefully, he's all right because he's a big part of our
team," said Eric Staal, who had a goal and three assists to give
him a team-high 82 points. "We are going to need him."
Mark Recchi had the Penguins' first three-goal game since Alexei
Kovalev did so on Jan. 25, 2003, but it wasn't enough to prevent
their fifth consecutive home loss and 10th in 11 games in
Pittsburgh. They are 7-18-6 at home.
Just as they did in a 4-3 loss to Ottawa on Wednesday, the
Penguins fell behind big early -- then it was 4-0, this time it was
5-0 -- before unsuccessfully mounting a rally.
"We've got to get off to better starts," Recchi said. "You
keep falling behind 4-0, 5-0, it's pretty tough."
The matchup of the NHL's best- and worst-record teams got off to
a predictable start as the Hurricanes opened a five-goal lead in
less than a period. Sebastien Caron was lifted after allowing
power-play goals to Staal and Ray Whitney among the first five
shots he faced, but replacement Marc-Andre Fleury was even worse --
he also was pulled after allowing goals by Cole, Kevyn Adams and
Rod Brind'Amour on four shots. Caron came back to start the second
period and finished the game, stopping 21 of 25 shots.
The Hurricanes, who lost to Pittsburgh 4-3 on Feb. 10 in one of
only five home losses all season, seemed to relax with such a big
lead and the Penguins got goals in the second from Recchi, John
LeClair and Konstantin Koltsov -- Koltsov's first since March 27,
Cole's second of the game and 30th of the season came midway
through the period and made it 6-2. The Hurricanes got the seventh
and final goal 35 seconds after Orpik's hit injured Cole, with
Stillman scoring their third power-play goal and fourth
special-teams goal of the game. Cole's first goal came on a
short-handed breakaway that made it 3-0 and was followed by Adams'
11th less than a minute later.
The 38-year-old Recchi scored both Penguins goals in the third
period, giving him 24 for the season. He could be an attractive
pickup for a contending team before Thursday's trading deadline,
and seems to be altering his stance that he didn't want to leave
Pittsburgh for a second time.
"I care about the Pittsburgh Penguins, and if they came to me
and said they had to do something, if they could get a younger
player, I'd have to think about it," he said. "I care about where
the Penguins are going."
Staal had four goals and eight assists in four games
against Pittsburgh. Carolina won three of the four games in the
season series, including a shootout victory Oct. 7 in each team's
second game. ... Stillman had a goal and two assists, giving him
four goals and six assists against Pittsburgh. ... The Penguins
have allowed seven short-handed goals and scored only one at home.