RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Nobody could've blamed Erik Cole if he had
sought revenge against the player who broke his neck and nearly
ended his career.
Cole assisted on Carolina's first two goals, and the Hurricanes
went on to a 6-2 victory over the Penguins on Saturday night.
"I didn't think it was going to be a tough game to play," Cole
said, referring to the subplot involving Orpik. "It was really
tough to stay into it tonight. But at the same time, I am thankful
we just got the two points."
Rod Brind'Amour had a goal and an assist. Justin Williams, Ray
Whitney, Eric Belanger and Chad LaRose also beat Pittsburgh's
Jocelyn Thibault, and Kevyn Adams added an empty-net goal for the
Hurricanes, who improved to 9-3-2 in their last 14 games.
But most of the attention was focused on Cole, who played his
first game against Orpik since he rammed Cole into the boards,
breaking his neck. The injury cost Cole three months -- and nearly
ended his career -- while Orpik was suspended for three games.
Orpik was injured and missed last month's game, which the
Hurricanes won 5-1.
"I'm proud of Erik -- for the hype that went on with the game,
he was focused, he helped set up the first two goals and played a
real solid game for us," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said.
"Erik was a class act."
"Tonight, it was just a weird game," Penguins forward Sidney
Crosby said. "We want to forget it just like the last one."
Cam Ward, coming off his first career regular-season shutout two
nights earlier against Washington, made 18 saves and improved to
4-1-0 in five career starts against the Penguins.
Thibault stopped 24 shots in his second start of the season.
Williams scored Carolina's first goal with a two-man advantage,
tapping a loose puck past Thibault at 12:51, and on that play Cole
recorded the 100th career assist.
Whitney gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead 5 minutes later, taking a
pass from Cole and beating Thibault with a wrist shot.
Brind'Amour gave the Hurricanes a three-goal lead when he scored
on the power play 1:29 into the second period, one-timing a pass
from Eric Staal to make it 3-0.
"Sometimes we're doing some good things. Sometimes we need to
be a little bit sharper, a little bit better, but specialty teams
have been strong for us," Laviolette said.
The Penguins scored twice later in the second to make it a
one-goal game. LeClair started the rally when he trickled a shot
past Ward at 3:18, and Recchi pulled Pittsburgh to 3-2 with a slap
shot from the left circle at 16:42.
But Belanger restored Carolina's two-goal lead midway through
the third period when he came down the left side and beat Thibault
with a wrist shot. Adams and LaRose scored short-handed goals 51
seconds apart late in the third.
Tensions were high at the start. Orpik was booed lustily nearly
every time he touched the puck, and then things got chippy about
seven minutes in. Carolina's Mike Commodore and Pittsburgh's Chris
Thorburn traded punches, with each player drawing five-minute
penalties for fighting.
Cole's two assists gave him 101 for his career. ... Cole
has four goals and five assists in his last four games. The
Hurricanes won three of those and lost the fourth in a shootout at
New Jersey. ... Recchi played his first game at the RBC Center
since helping Carolina win the Stanley Cup. He signed with the
Penguins during the offseason. ... Hurricanes D Tim Gleason
(shoulder) missed his sixth straight game. D Niclas Wallin also did
not play. ... Scratched for Pittsburgh were forwards Ronald
Petrovicky and Andre Roy, and D Eric Cairns.