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Hurricanes get boost from Tlusty, returning players

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. -- While the Carolina Hurricanes welcomed back several players from the injury list, it was a player on board all along who was most productive Thursday night.

Jiri Tlusty scored twice as the Hurricanes defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 at PNC Arena.

"It was a big help (to have players back)," Tlusty said. "I know my role and I try to do all the simple things out there."

Jeff Skinner produced a goal in his first game back from a concussion and Eric Staal added a goal and two assists for Southeast Division-leading Carolina (10-8-1), which entered the game with only one victory in its previous five outings. Tlusty also had an assist.

Goalie Cam Ward had 26 saves for Carolina.

Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz opened the scoring, but the Penguins (13-8-0) were undone by Carolina's three-goal second period.

Tlusty poked in the go-ahead goal shortly after Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury appeared as if he might frustrate the Hurricanes for an extended stretch.

Patrick Dwyer, from behind the net, fed Skinner for his score, giving the Hurricanes two goals in a 1:46 span after Tlusty opening the scoring.

Skinner's eight goals are third most on the team, one behind Tlusty and two behind Staal. Tlusty's scoring touch has been a bonus for the Hurricanes.

"He has shown he can score at this level on a consistent basis," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "Jiri capitalized on his opportunities."

The Hurricanes kept the momentum after the quick strikes when Ward stopped Matt Cooke's shot in front of the net.

Tlusty scored his second goal with 11 seconds left in the second period, off a pass from Alexander Semin.

The Penguins were disturbed by how Carolina scored.

"You could throw a blanket over the area where they scored four goals tonight," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

Perhaps it didn't hurt that Skinner was one of four Carolina players returning from injuries.

"Not only healthy, but we were fresh," said Muller, pointing out he was better able to distribute the ice time.

Earlier, Kunitz took a cross-ice pass from Sidney Crosby and one-timed the shot past Ward. Crosby's league-leading assist total grew to 22.

The Hurricanes pulled even with 25 seconds to play in the first period when Staal redirected Semin's shot past Fleury.

"Once we got a goal against, the whole game turned," Penguins center Brandon Sutter said. "I think we have to do a better job, especially in front of our own net."

The game included the first outings for Sutter and Carolina center Jordan Staal against their former teams. They were the centerpieces of a June trade between the teams, though not major factors in the scoring plays Thursday night. They did meet for the opening faceoff.

"It's fun," Jordan Staal said of playing against his former team. "It makes for a special challenge. It was a little weird playing against those guys, but it turned out to be a good night."

Fleury led the NHL in February with eight victories. He was sharp early against Carolina, stopping rapid-fire shots from Skinner and Chad LaRose during a sequence barely six minutes into the game.

Fleury finished with 25 saves.

The Penguins had a 12-game streak with at least one power-play goal snapped. They went 0-of 5 on power plays.

NOTES: The Hurricanes also welcomed back center Tim Brent and defensemen Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain to the lineup. Skinner and Brent (lower body) missed five games, Gleason (lower body) sat six games and McBain (upper body) was out four games. ... The Penguins played their third game in a row without forward Evgeni Malkin (concussion). ... The Hurricanes sent defenseman Ryan Murphy back to his junior team, Kitchener of the OHL, after he played four games without a point on an emergency call-up. ... Pittsburgh gave up six goals in each of its previous two losses during a 5-2-0 stretch. ... There will be a rematch April 9, but the teams won't meet in Pittsburgh until the regular-season finale April 27.

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