Hurricanes Storm Capitals

Matthew McConaughey poses for photographers as he arrives at the world premiere of his film "Failure to Launch" in New York on Wednesday, March 8, 2006. McConaughey plays a thirtysomething man who still lives with his parents.
AP Photo/Stuart Ramson

Gary Roberts returned from a two-week layoff and didn't miss a beat.

The fiery Carolina forward returned to provide plenty of vigor in addition to a pair of assists in a 3-2 victory Sunday night over the Washington Capitals.

"You miss (that energy) in practice too," coach Paul Maurice said of Roberts, who sat out four games with a groin injury. "When he came back to practice with our team last week we started to get a little bit better.

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  • "He brings a lot every night and he keeps the other team on their toes a little bit more," Maurice added.

    In addition to Roberts' solid night, Ron Francis moved into a tie with Gordie Howe for fifth on the all-time assists list.

    "When you hear his name, `Mr. Hockey' and everything he's done for the game and how he played the game, and to be able to hear your name mentioned alongside somebody like his is something I'm extremely proud of," Francis said.

    The Hurricanes were outscored a combined 10-2 in their previous two home losses in the team's new arena, but jumped in front early this time and had a two-goal second period to take control.

    Carolina avoided losing its first three home games of a season for the first time in the franchise's 21 years.

    "The tension was starting to rise everywhere because we were getting to a point where we weren't able to see the good things that happened the first 10 games," said Maurice. "We were pretty pleased with ourselves on that long road trip and then all of the sudden we had a couple of tough nights and it was starting to wash away. This was very important to our locker room."

    Joe Sacco's first goal of the season 2:52 into the third period made it a one-goal game and Jan Bulis hit the crossbar with 11 minutes left, but Carolina hung on for the win.

    Francis, who scored his 1,500th point in a 3-2 loss Friday at Detroit, tied Howe with 1,049 assists on Bates Battaglia's fifth goal of the season early in the second period. Battaglia snapped a three-game pointless streak with his goal.

    Francis fed defenseman Marek Malik at the opposite circle, who put the puck right on Battaglia's stick in front of the goal and past Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig.

    Jeff O'Neill took advantage of a Washington turnover to score his fourth of the season and eventual game winner, slipping the puck under the pads of Kolzig with 1:15 left in the second. .

    The Hurricanes went most of the game without leading scorer Sami Kanapen, who played only four shifts before leaving with a shoulder injury.

    Roberts got things going for Carolina less than five minutes into the game, assisting on Andrei Kovalenko's third goal of the season. The Russian poked the puck past a sprawled Kolzig during a wild scramble in front of the net.

    Washington coach Ron Wilson said the goal shouldn't have counted.

    "We got jipped on that first goal," Wilson said. "The explanation to us was that Gary Roberts was pushed in the crease, when he skated in (the crease), knocked Olie down and then sat on him. I just don't like that explanation."

    Roberts hit the post two other times in the period, but couldn't get anything by Kolzig. Meanwhile, rookie Glen Metropolit scored less than 2 1/2 minutes after Kovalenko broke the ice to tie it at 1-1.

    It was Metropolit's third goal in the last four games since being recalled from the minors.

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