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'Canes Lose New Arena Debut

If there's one team you don't want crashing your party, it's the New Jersey Devils.

New Jersey scored three goals in a three-minute span early in the third period to spoil the opening of the Carolina Hurricanes' new arena with a 4-2 victory Friday night.

New Jersey also beat Atlanta earlier in the month when the Thrashers opened their new home, and Toronto in March to open the Air Canada Centre.

"Usually the other team is pretty psyched up and it makes it tougher on us, but we did a pretty good job," said defenseman Scott Stevens.

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  • Coach Robbie Ftorek said the formula has been hard work.

    "The guys knew what was going to happen coming in and they just went out and got themselves loosened up and went right to our game plan and did a heck of a job," said Ftorek, referring to the 30-minute opening ceremonies. "We liked the way we played tonight."

    Carolina goaltender Arturs Irbe was sharp for the first 40 minutes as Carolina led 1-0 heading to the final period. But Irbe let in a soft goal from the blue line by 26-year-old rookie Brian Rafalski 51 seconds into the period. Krzyszlof Oliwa and Petr Sykora followed with scores shortly thereafter as the large crowd grew quiet.

    It was Rafalski's first NHL goal, while Oliwa scored his fourth of the season and Sykora his second.

    "Archie looked unbeatable for 40 minutes and then all of the sudden they were able to beat him three times in a short span," said Carolina captain Ron Francis. "Our guys had some great chances late but we just didn't get the job done."

    Irbe said Rafalski's shot was heading wide of the net and he should have never tried to stop it.

    "Nobody was expecting that (goal) so I pretty much spoiled the feeling of a festive night for my teammates and the big crowd," said Irbe, letting Rafalski's long shot hit off the nob of his stick and into the net. "It was errors that cost the game, my errors,"

    A tip-in by Bates Battaglia with 11:22 left brought the crowd back into the game but the Devils, the best road team in hockey a season ago with an NHL-record 28 wins, held on down the stretch, scoring an empty-net goal by Randy McKay with four seconds left.

    "It's tough to say after you lose a game but you could see the advantage of having a home crowd because when we scored that goal things heated up," said Carolina coach Paul Maurice.

    The unveiling of the $158 million Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena drew a sellout crowd of 18,730 as fans welcomed the team back from an NHL record-tying nine-game road trip that produced a solid 4-2-3 record.

    One fan dressed as an Arab held up a sign that read: "Nomads No More" in reference to the team's two-year, 160-mile roundtrip trek for home games in Greensboro while the new Raleigh arena was being built.

    The Hurricanes came out sluggish after five days off and were outshot 12-6 in the opening period as the hard-checking Devils took the crowd out of the game. But Andrei Kovalenko's rebound goal early in the second period sparked Carolina and its crowd.

    The Russian jumped on the puck after Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur had stopped a hard shot from defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn, but couldn't control the rebound. Kovalenko waited until Brodeur committed, then lifted a backhander high into the net.

    New Jersey's Ken Daneyko played in his 1,000th NHL game all with New Jersey.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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