Streaking Hurricanes use Staal's hat trick to rally past Blues 4-2

Monday, January 16, 2006

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Eric Staal has defied the odds during a lifetime of playing hockey. At 21 years old, he finally lost his first tooth -- or at least part of it.

"I've got a lot chin scars, but I've never lost a tooth," he said. "Maybe I'll smarten up and wear a mouth guard from now on."

The dynamic scorer had three goals, including the go-ahead one off a beautiful behind-the-back pass from Erik Cole, and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday for their seventh straight victory.

Six have come at the RBC Center, where the Hurricanes improved the NHL's best home record to 20-4-1. With 64 points, they moved in front of Philadelphia, Ottawa and Detroit for the best record in the league.

Backup goaltender Cam Ward made 26 saves to win his second start in seven games.

Staal got his second career NHL hat trick after missing part of the first period following a high stick from Dennis Wideman, and he returned with stitches in his lip and minus about half of one of his incisors.

Just seconds after a penalty on St. Louis' Dallas Drake ended midway through the third period, Justin Williams carried the puck behind the net and centered it to Cole. He quickly sent it to Staal on the wing, and the shot barely got through goaltender Curtis Sanford to give Staal his second goal and Carolina its first lead.

Staal added his third with 9 seconds left to start a shower of hats from the crowd.

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