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Carolina 3, Tampa Bay 1

Jan. 30, 2002 at 11:08 PM

TAMPA, Fla., Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Arturs Irbe made 18 saves Wednesday night in his return to the nets as Carolina's undisputed starting goaltender, helping the Hurricanes down the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1.

The Latvian Olympian was deemed the Hurricanes backup behind Tom Barrasso earlier in the season, but has allowed more than two goals just once in his last five games.

Barrasso started in Tuesday night's 2-2 tie with the Buffalo Sabres, but left midway through the first period after suffering a groin strain.

The Hurricanes rallied from a 1-0 deficit on goals by Sami Kapanen, Bates Battaglia and Rod Brind'Amour. Jeff O'Neill assisted on two of the goals.

Tampa Bay opened the scoring 75 seconds into the game on Pavel Kubina's fourth. But the Hurricanes responded just under 6 1/2 minutes later on Kapanen's slap shot from the slot.

Battaglia put Carolina up for good at 3:25 of the second period. After taking a pass from Glen Wesley at the top of the left circle, Battaglia fired a wrist shot off of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin's right shoulder and into the net.

Brind'Amour's 14th goal of the season, coming with 2:55 left in the contest, capped the scoring.

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