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Associated Press
11/9/2006 10:11:28 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Erik Cole scored three goals and Cam Ward posted his first regular-season shutout, leading the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

Eric Staal and Trevor Letowski also scored, Scott Walker had two assists and Ward stopped 20 shots. The Conn Smythe Trophy winner after he led Carolina to the Stanley Cup title last season, Ward had two shutouts in the 2006 playoffs.

It was Cole's fourth career hat trick and first since an 8-2 win over Montreal on Jan. 31, 2006.

It also was his first multigoal game since March 4 against Pittsburgh, but that's a game Cole probably would rather forget. Later in that one, he was run over from behind by Brooks Orpik, breaking his neck in an injury that cost Cole three months.

This time, the Hurricanes scored on their first shot on goal when Walker burst down the right side on a 2-on-2 rush and passed to Cole, who tapped the puck past Brent Johnson at 5:47 of the first period.

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