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Eric Staal has two goals, three assists as Hurricanes beat Washington, 6-3

WASHINGTON - When the top team in the Eastern Conference and the worst one got together, the result was, unsurprisingly, a high-scoring blowout.

The unexpected twist was that the last-place Hurricanes were skating circles around the high-flying Washington Capitals.

Eric Staal had two goals and three assists to help the Carolina Hurricanes end a three-game losing streak with a 6-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Monday night.

"It feels good," Staal said. "We haven't had a lot of those this year. Hopefully we can follow this up and continue to play well."

Jussi Jokinen added a goal and two assists. Tuomo Ruutu also had a goal and an assist while Matt Cullen added two assists as Carolina stopped Washington's three-game winning streak and got just its second road victory this season.

"It feels good," Staal said. "We haven't had a lot of those this year. Hopefully we can follow this up and continue to play well."

Staal and linemates Jokinen and Cullen combined for 10 points and caused trouble for Washington all night. Cullen finished plus-3 while Staal and Jokinen both ended up plus-4.

Carolina entered the game with 25 points, 12 behind second-worst Toronto. Washington had 54 points, but New Jersey took over first place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-2 victory over Atlanta.

"You look at their standings, and you look at how hard they played, (and) I find it hard to believe they are where they are," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We know them as a divisional opponent that plays hard against us all the time, and tonight was no exception."

The Capitals traded captain Chris Clark and defenceman Milan Jurcina to Columbus for Jason Chimera earlier in the day and looked flat early, as the league's top-scoring team managed just four shots on goal in the first period.

But Boudreau and some players waved off talk that the deal affected the players.

"It's a hard situation for us because we lost our captain and a great guy," said Washington's Alex Ovechkin. "They're both good players, but it's a business and you can do nothing about it."

Carolina took charge early as the Hurricanes scored on three of their first nine shots. They beat goalie Jose Theodore three times in a stretch of 6 minutes, 46 seconds on shots from near the goal.

Ruutu scored first, putting in the rebound of Staal's shot at 7:44 of the first period. Staal made it 2-0 at 10:14 and Jokinen got the third goal at 14:30.

"The only way you're going to play against this team is if you're going to skate," Maurice said. "If you give them an extra foot-and-a-half of ice to play on, they're going to beat you and make you look bad doing it."

But the Capitals began to rally after that. Mike Green and Eric Fehr scored in the second period, and Ovechkin cut it to 4-3 on a power-play goal early in the third period.

Alexander Semin, who agreed to terms on a US$6 million, one-year contract extension on Saturday, and Green assisted on that goal.

But Staal then got an assist on Sergei Samsonov's goal with 10 minutes left and added a late empty-net goal.

NOTES: Nicklas Backstrom drew a four-minute high-sticking penalty in the first period. He had only 12 penalty minutes all season before that. ... This was Washington's first Southeast Division loss this year; the Capitals are 8-1 there... Carolina is 2-13-4 on the road. ... Cullen now has four assists in the last two games.



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