Originally created 02/11/99

NHL action: Hurricanes too much for Maple Leafs



TORONTO -- Ron Francis' five-point night overshadowed a natural hat trick by Sergei Berezin as the Carolina Hurricanes beat Toronto 6-5 Wednesday night in the next-to-last game at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Francis, playing in his 1,300th career NHL game, had two goals and three assists for the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes. It was one point from being a career high for Francis.

Martin Gelinas, Ray Sheppard, Kevin Dineen and Paul Ranheim also scored for Carolina, which opened a six-point lead on the idle second-place Florida Panthers.

Berezin scored three straight goals for Toronto and linemate Igor Korolev assisted on all three. Steve Sullivan and Fredrik Modin rounded out the scoring.

The Maple Leafs, who outshot the Hurricanes 29-25, remained one point behind the Northeast Division-leading Ottawa Senators, who did not play.

The lead switched hands several times with neither team able to open up a two-goal margin until Ranheim's goal made it 6-4 at 13:32 of the third period.

Francis put the Hurricanes ahead to stay at 7:10 of the third period when he rifled a wrist shot from the high slot. That made the score 5-4.

Only one more NHL game will be played at the 67-year-old Gardens. The Maple Leafs will play that Saturday night against Chicago before moving into the new Air Canada Centre on Feb. 20 to play the Montreal Canadiens.

Toronto goalie Curtis Joseph registered an assist on Toronto's fourth goal when he purposely fired the puck up ice to a streaking Sullivan. That gave Joseph five assists for the season, equaling a Maple Leafs high set in 1978-79 by Mike Palmateer and matched by Ken Wregget in 1987-88.

Carolina left wing Gary Roberts assisted on both goals by Francis, giving him 300 for his NHL career.

SHARKS 5, BLACKHAWKS 2: Joe Murphy had two power-play goals and Jeff Norton scored another, leading the San Jose Sharks to a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

The Sharks entered the game last in the NHL in power-play efficiency with only 29 goals in 248 attempts for an 11.7 percentage. They cashed in on three of seven power-play opportunities Wednesday night.

The defeat was the Blackhawks' sixth straight and extended their winless streak to seven games. Chicago's last win was on Jan. 27 at Edmonton.

Bill Houlder scored the tie-breaking goal for the Sharks with 12:12 left in the third period. Houlder was skating in from the left of the goal when he took a pass from Patrick Marleau and fired it past goalie Jocelyn Thibault for his fifth goal.

Murphy's second goal of the game and 14th of the season came with 7:28 left as Brad Brown was sitting out with a five-minute boarding penalty along with a game misconduct.

Marleau's empty-net goal with 30 seconds left, his 13th, concluded the scoring.

Earlier in the period, Chicago's Chris Chelios tied the score at 2-2 when he beat Mike Vernon after poking the puck loose along the right boards.

Norton opened the scoring at 2:31 of the first period with a slap shot from just inside the left circle. Chicago's Dave Manson was in the penalty box at the time.

The Blackhawks tied the game at 5:01 on a long shot by Nelson Emerson, his 12th. Murphy broke the 1-1 tie at 18:18 of the second period with his 13th goal.

Earlier in the period, Chicago had a two-man advantage for 34 seconds, but failed to get a shot off.

The game was San Jose's fourth during a 10-game, 17-day road trip, the longest in league history. The Sharks are 2-2-0 on the trip. Their overall road record is 6-12-5.

The loss gave Chicago a 14-31-8 record. The last time the Blackhawks were 17 games under .500 was at the end of the 1976-77 season.

The Blackhawks trail San Jose and Edmonton by 12 points for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

COYOTES 3, KINGS 0: Nikolai Khabibulin made 26 saves for his sixth shutout and Greg Adams scored twice as the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 Wednesday night.

Jeremy Roenick also scored for the Coyotes, who are unbeaten in 11 of their last 12 games (6-1-5). Phoenix pulled within two points of the idle Dallas Stars for the Pacific Division and Western Conference lead.

The Kings have lost four of their last five and fell six points behind the San Jose Sharks for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Khabibulin's franchise-record 18th career shutout also tied him with Bob Essensa for the franchise mark for career victories with 116. Essensa was 116-114-32 for the Winnipeg Jets from 1988 to 1994.

The shutout also was the second straight for the Coyotes in their green alternate jerseys. Phoenix blanked Chicago 3-0 Saturday in the new jerseys' debut.

Adams broke the scoreless tie when he redirected a shot by Rick Tocchet past Jamie Storr from the low slot for his 12th goal.

Adams added his 13th with 8:50 remaining when he took a pass from Daniel Briere and blasted the puck between Storr's legs from just inside the left side of the blue line.

Roenick gave the Coyotes a 3-0 lead on a breakaway goal with 6:06 to play.

Khabibulin rarely was tested by the Kings, who had only six shots in the third period. Perhaps his best save of the night came on a close shot by Yanic Perreault, who had taken a pass from Sean O'Donnell and skated into the crease. But Khabibulin stopped his short wrist shot to preserve the shutout.

Khabibulin also got help from the left post, which Luc Robitaille hit with a rebound on the Kings' first power play.

Los Angeles was 0-for-5 with the man advantage and has scored one goal in its last 24 power-play opportunities.