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Cullen's hat trick helps Hurricanes storm Avalanche

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Matt Cullen helped the

Carolina Hurricanes end their futility against the Colorado

Avalanche.

Cullen netted his first career hat trick to lead the Hurricanes

to their third straight win, a 5-2 victory over the Avalanche on

Sunday.

Defenseman Joni Pitkanen recorded a goal and an assist and Ryan

Bayda also scored for the Hurricanes (31-25-5), who have won

four of their last five contests to move within one point of the

final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Ray Whitney and Chad LaRose collected two assists apiece and Cam

Ward made 17 saves for Carolina, which defeated the Avalanche

for the first time since moving from Hartford. The franchise's

previous win over Colorado was February 9, 1996.

Wojtek Wolski and Darcy Tucker tallied and Andrew Raycroft

stopped 34 shots for the Avalanche, who had their three-game

winning streak snapped.

Pitkanen gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 edge with 2:54 left in the

middle session, fighting off a defender and punching in a

rebound of Tuomo Ruutu's shot from the slot for his sixth goal

of the season.

Bayda provided some breathing room at 8:49 of the third period

and Cullen sent the hats showering to ice with an empty-netter

with 32 ticks to play.

After Wolski opened the scoring 59 seconds into the contest,

Cullen leveled the game exactly seven minutes into the first

period.

The 32-year-old Cullen also scored 79 ticks into the second,

converting a wraparound to give Carolina a 2-1 bulge.

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