‘Canes push Devils to limit

Eric Staal scored two goals less than three minutes apart, Cam Ward made 28 saves in his third career playoff shutout and the Carolina Hurricanes routed the New Jersey Devils 4-0 on Sunday night to force a decisive Game 7.

Carolina Hurricanes’ goalie

Carolina Hurricanes’ goalie

Hurricanes 4 Devils 0

RALEIGH, N.C. — Eric Staal scored two goals less than three minutes apart, Cam Ward made 28 saves in his third career playoff shutout and the Carolina Hurricanes routed the New Jersey Devils 4-0 on Sunday night to force a decisive Game 7.

Ray Whitney had a goal and three assists, Jussi Jokinen scored Carolina’s first power-play goal since Game 2, Chad LaRose had two assists and Staal added an assist for the Hurricanes.

They outshot New Jersey 37-28 while their reconfigured top line produced the first three goals, and that helped lead to the most lopsided final score of the NHL’s tightest first-round pairing.

The best-of-seven series is even at three games apiece, with the winner-take-all Game 7 set for Tuesday night in New Jersey.

Ward finished with his first shutout in the postseason since beating Edmonton 5-0 in Game 2 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals.

He went on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as a rookie that year, and has been the Hurricanes’ most consistent performer during these playoffs.

But through most of this series, the sport’s winningest goaltender — Martin Brodeur — has been his equal.

Not this time.

This one probably would have been even more lopsided had the Devils not had Brodeur.

Coming off his record-tying 23rd career playoff shutout, a 1-0 victory three nights earlier in Newark, he was under siege all night and finished with 33 saves.

Not even the return of captain Jamie Langenbrunner, who missed three games with a lower body injury, could save New Jersey from its worst performance of an otherwise evenly matched series.

The previous four games were decided by one goal, with two going to overtime and another was 0.2 of a second away from making it three straight before Jussi Jokinen’s buzzer-beating deflection ended Game 4.

This one was over well before that — even if it resembled Game 4 for a while.

Just as then, Carolina led by three midway through the second period.

The difference: the Devils, who rallied to tie that one in the third, didn’t have another comeback in them.

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