Toronto 4, Carolina 3

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TORONTO (TICKER) —The Carolina Hurricanes returned to the site of their greatest triumph, but Kevin Weekes knows all too well that this is a different season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs peppered Weekes with 47 shots but needed third-period goals by Tom Fitzgerald and Darcy Tucker to post a 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes.

It was the first meeting between the teams at the Air Canada Centre since the Hurricanes posted a 2-1 overtime triumph in Game Six of the Eastern Conference finals last May. The win gave the Hurricanes their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

As improbable as that run seemed, this season’s collapse has been just as unlikely. Carolina is 3-17-2-3 in its last 25 games and Weekes has faced 91 shots in his last two starts.

“We’ve got to do a better job of keeping people to the outside so that we don’t give up too many shots,” Hurricanes captain Ron Francis said. “(Weekes) played well for us. It’s a shame he didn’t get the win.”

In the first period, Weekes saw 20 shots and yielded goals to Jonas Hoglund on a rebound and Alexander Mogilny on a wrister from the slot.

But Carolina also scored twice in the period, despite managing just seven shots on Ed Belfour. Kevyn Adams got things started 47 seconds into the game and Ryan Bayda scored his first NHL goal, stuffing in his own rebound at the 2:53 mark.

The Hurricanes took a 3-2 lead on a power-play goal by Josef Vasicek with 8 1/2 minutes left in the second period, but Weekes could not hold off the Leafs in the third.

Fitzgerald scored 15 seconds into the final period on a backhander from in front, tying it at 3-3.

Less than two minutes later, Toronto’s Ed Belfour, who faced nearly half as many shots as Weekes, stopped Pavel Brendl on a breakaway.

“My job is to come up with those saves,” said Belfour, who has allowed 15 goals in winning seven of his last eight games.

Tucker scored the game-winner, charging to the net and converting a centering pass from Alyn McAuley with 7:39 left.

Leafs defenseman Wade Belak flipped the puck into the right corner and teammate Travis Green forechecked Hurricanes defenseman Tomas Malec. McCauley got the loose puck on the right side and centered to a streaking Tucker, who scored his eighth goal of the season.

“He (Green) went into the corner and finished his check. The puck went to Alyn, and Alyn made a great pass,” Tucker said. “That’s the way we play. We bang and we bang to the end. That’s the way we have to play.”

The win was the eighth in nine games for the Maple Leafs, who nearly matched their season high of 48 shots in a December 3 win over Tampa Bay.

“They’re a good team, one of the top teams in the conference,” Weekes said. “They’ve got a lot of skilled guys, especially Alex (Mogilny) and Mats (Sundin). And they’ve got a lot of balance.”

To illustrate that balance, 11 Leafs picked one point.

“We’ve been getting scoring from everyone,” Hoglund said. “We’re going to need that down the stretch. We just can’t depend on three guys.”

Gary Roberts signed a one-year contract extension Tuesday, three days after making his season debut following surgery on both shoulders. He had an assist on Mogilny’s goal.

Roberts spent three seasons with the Hurricanes before signing with the Maple Leafs as a free agent in July 2000.

But veteran center Shayne Corson was not part of that balance. He was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

Adams’ goal 47 seconds in came when his shot from the left side of the net deflected off Belfour’s skate and went into the net.

Hoglund tied it less than a minute later when he outmuscled defenseman Bret Hedican and batted in a rebound after Weekes stopped Nik Antropov on a wraparound.

Bayda, who made his NHL debut on Friday, scored when he fired a shot from the lower right circle and rammed his own rebound past Belfour.

“It’s a thrill to score it here,” said the 22-year-old product of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Mogilny tied it with a quick wrister from the slot with 2:04 left in the period.

Vasicek scored Carolina’s lone power-play goal in seven chances, putting a rebound of a shot by Jeff O’Neill past Belfour.

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

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