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Carolina captain scores No. 545

2/23/2004

TORONTO (AP) -- Ron Francis never thought he'd be in the company
of Maurice "The Rocket" Richard.

Francis scored his 545th goal, surpassing Richard for 20th place
on the NHL's career list, as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the
Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 Monday night.

"When you hear your name mentioned with 'The Rocket,' that's
awfully special," Francis said. "I never thought I'd be in that
position. It's quite an honor to pass him."

The 40-year-old said he would give the puck to his father, who
attended the game. Francis is from Ontario.

"I've always considered myself more of a playmaker than a goal
scorer, and when a playmaker hears his name mentioned alongside
Maurice 'The Rocket' Richard, that's extremely special for me," he
said.

Francis, standing alone at the side of the net, gave Carolina
the lead at 4:47 of the third period after Jeff O'Neill's shot hit
off the end boards and deflected to him.

"It's a special moment for Ronnie. You couldn't be more happy
for a guy that's done so much for this organization and the game,"
Carolina's Erik Cole said. "He's showed me how to be a true
professional. It's great for him. When we jumped over the boards, I
saw him go grab the puck. That's going to be a nice keepsake for
him."

Cole scored a power-play goal for the Hurricanes, who have
won just two of their last 10 games.

Carolina went 2-for-3 on the power play after entering the game
in an 0-for-11 slump. The Hurricanes have the worst-ranked
power play in the NHL.

Toronto went 0-for-6 with the man advantage.

"We never put any good pressure on them," Toronto captain Mats Sundin said. "We have to get better."

Leafs backup goalie Mikael Tellqvist made his third straight
start in place of injured Ed Belfour. Tellqvist lost for the
first time this season, but he continues to make a strong case to
remain the backup when Belfour returns.

Belfour has missed nine of the last 10 games because of a back
injury. Regular backup Trevor Kidd is 1-3-1 while allowing 22 goals
in his last five starts.

Tellqvist made 27 saves. He stopped Cole on a breakaway in the
third period.

"We can't blame it on him. He had an excellent game," Sundin
said. "It could have been 3-1 after that breakaway. He gave us a
chance, and that's all you can ask."

Carolina's Kevin Weekes stopped 28 shots. Weekes shut out the
Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Jan. 27.

Toronto's Bryan McCabe knocked Pavel Brendl out of the game with
a crushing hip check late in the second period. Brendl took a while
before getting up.

"He's got a collarbone injury. It's pretty substantial,"
Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's going to miss some
time. He's got big collarbone problems."

Earlier in the period, Toronto's Bryan Marchment sent O'Neill to
the ice with a hip check.

Moments later, Toronto's Nik Antropov hit the goalpost on a
2-on-1.

A few minutes after that, Antropov gave Toronto a 1-0 lead with
a short-handed goal. Toronto's Alexei Ponikarovsky skated in on a
partial breakaway before putting a shot on Weekes. Weekes lost the
puck under his pads before Antropov pushed it across the line.

Cole tipped Sean Hill's shot from the blueline, tying it on the
power play late in the second period.

Game notes
O'Neill celebrated his 28th birthday in his hometown. ...
Toronto's Gary Roberts, a former Hurricane, missed his fifth straight game with a groin injury. ... Carolina is last in the NHL in scoring, with 118 goals.