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Staal has record-tying game in Carolina's 9-3 rout of Tampa Bay

TAMPA, Fla. - Eric Staal had his best offensive game, and helped the Carolina Hurricanes continue their playoff push.

Staal tied franchise records with four goals and six points and the surging Hurricanes hammered the Tampa Bay Lightning 9-3 on Saturday night.

"That's one of those games that don't happen very often," Staal said. "It was a good win for our team, which was the bottom line. But it's fun getting points and being on the offensive side of the game. I've been on the other end of it before."

It was the third time - the first since Ron Francis on Feb. 12, 1984, against Edmonton - that a Hartford-Carolina player had four goals. Staal's six-point night was the fourth in franchise history. He has 32 goals this season, and has five goals and 12 points during a five-game point streak.

Tuomo Ruutu had two goals and three assists, and Erik Cole added four assists for the Hurricanes, who have won seven of nine. Anton Babchuk, Joe Corvo and Rod Brind'Amour had the other Carolina goals.

The Hurricanes jumped from 10th to seventh in the Eastern Conference with the victory.

"We've been pretty solid," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "Everyone once in a while one of these happens. You don't get too excited. You just hope everybody gets through the game, and nobody gets hurt and you go on the next one."

Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone scored for Tampa Bay. The Lightning have lost 14 of 18.

"A team stinker," Tampa Bay interim coach Rick Tocchet said. "Every single guy contributed."

Tocchet scheduled a post-game off-ice workout, with a second session set for 9 a.m. ET Sunday.

"You can't get rid of 21 guys in one night," Tocchet said.

Staal scored twice in the first to help Carolina take a 3-1 lead. He had a short-handed goal off a pass from Brind'Amour during a 2-on-none at 7:01 of the first, and then reached the 30-goal plateau for the fourth consecutive season from the slot with 10:20 left in the period.

"That was a great game," Brind'Amour said. "Everything he touched was gold."

Carolina scored six times - one off the franchise record - in the second for a 9-1 advantage. Staal had two goals, coming at 12:48 and 16:45.

Brind'Amour stopped a personal 29-game goal-scoring drought - dating back to Dec. 23 - with a power-play goal at 3:48 of the second.

The Hurricanes swept the six-game season series with Tampa Bay. It's the first time the franchise has accomplished the feat since the 1996-97 Hartford Whalers won all four meetings against the Lightning.

"They're not having a great year, so those teams you've got to beat because it seems like everybody else is beating them," Brind'Amour said.

Notes: Francis is the Hurricanes' associate had coach. ... Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton has not ruled out the possibility of speeding up the process of working out a potential full-time deal with Tocchet, who replaced the fired Barry Melrose last Nov. 14. "I said I'd go over it at the end of the year. I may accelerate it that, but we haven't got that far," Lawton said. ... Staal has three hat tricks this season. ... Carolina G Cam Ward made his 14th consecutive start. ... Malone (flu) and Tampa Bay C Paul Szczechura (wrist) both returned after sitting out Friday's game with St. Louis. ... Lightning LW Vinny Prospal picked up his 400th career assist on Malone's goal.


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