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Captain Francis pulls Carolina even

3/1/2004

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The Carolina Hurricanes have little
chance of making the NHL playoffs. You can't tell by the way
they're playing.

The Hurricanes got a tying goal from Ron Francis with 4:15
left in regulation Sunday night to earn a 3-3 tie with the
Minnesota Wild and extend Carolina's point streak to seven games
(3-0-2-2).

"There's still hope, right?" said Carolina's Justin Williams,
who also scored. "We have to do whatever we can to get points."

Francis, a 23-season NHL veteran and the Hurricanes captain,
came through when it counted. He poked a loose puck out of a
scramble in front of Minnesota goaltender Manny Fernandez to send
the game into overtime.

"Our leader really led the way," Williams said.

Marian Gaborik gave the Wild a 3-2 lead at 12:09 of the third
period, and Andrei Zyuzin scored twice for Minnesota, as two of the
NHL's three lowest-scoring teams combined for four goals in third
period.

Zyuzin's second goal of the game tied it at 2 at 11:38 of the
third period, and Gaborik broke the tie 31 seconds later.

"It's been tough a little bit for me," said Zyuzin, a healthy
scratch the previous two games. "I have to go through that and go
on and play hard."

Gaborik, a 30-goal scorer each of the last two seasons, has just
11 this season. Sunday's goal was his first at home since Dec. 23.

"It was a great feeling to get a goal in front of the home
crowd," he said. "It pumps you up."

Jeff O'Neill put the Hurricanes in front 2-1 at 8:27 of the
third when a shot by Josef Vasicek deflected off O'Neill, who was
tied up with Filip Kuba in the crease.

"As soon as we got the lead, it seemed like it was gone two
shifts later," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said.

Carolina goaltender Arturs Irbe, playing just his second game
since his recall from Johnstown of the ECHL, made several tough
stops, including an open chance in overtime by fellow Latvian
native Sergei Zholtok.

"I've known him so long," said Irbe, who smothered Zholtok's
wrist shot from the right circle. "I knew what he was going to do,
especially in OT."

Zyuzin, stopped by Irbe on a point-blank attempt in the first
period, opened the scoring at 11:38 of the second with a goal that
snapped a streak of 19 straight failed power-play attempts for the
Wild.

The lead was short-lived, however, because Justin Williams tied
it just 36 seconds later.

Williams picked up a loose puck low in the left circle and moved
out between the circles. Fernandez was screened by Carolina
teammate Travis Henry, and Williams' wrist shot went through both
players' legs.

Game notes
Minnesota goaltender Dwayne Roloson was in uniform after
missing two games following the death of his father. Roloson served
as Fernandez's backup. ... Francis, who has not missed a game in
his career, turns 41 on Monday. ... Despite a losing record
overall, Minnesota has dominated Eastern Conference opponents,
going 9-3-2-1 against them.