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Associated Press
11/17/2006 11:03:39 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - After a slow start to the season, Rod Brind'Amour and the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes are playing like, well, Stanley Cup champions.

Brind'Amour had two goals and two assists to extend his point streak to seven games, and Erik Cole also had a hand in every score for Carolina in a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

"We definitely feel better the way we've been playing of late," said Brind'Amour, who has goals in four consecutive games. "We've got to keep it up, because we're not where we want to be yet."

Carolina's captain didn't manage a single point through the season's first four games, all losses - but he has 10 goals and 20 assists in the 17 games since to rank among the league leaders.

Brind'Amour has at least one point in every Carolina victory this season, and he and Cole scored power-play goals less than two minutes apart in the second period for a 2-0 lead that set the tone.

"It can grind teams down and wear them down a little bit, having to play in their end," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "Over the course of time, we can get the results we want."

Backup goalie John Grahame made 21 saves to earn his first win since joining the defending champions in the off-season. Grahame, a member of the U.S. team at the Turin Olympics, allowed a total of 10 goals in his previous two starts this season.

Cam Ward started in Carolina's net each of the previous 11 games and 18 of the team's 20 this season entering Friday.

Grahame "wants to play. He wants to be in there," Laviolette said. "It's easy just to accept a role or a situation, and I know that he was mad, and he wanted to get in there and he wanted to contribute."

Brind'Amour assisted on Cole's opening goal, scored himself 1:46 later to make it 2-0, assisted on Ray Whitney's goal early in the third period and ended the scoring with 1:47 remaining off a pass from Cole, who finished with three assists.

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