TORONTO (AP)—Ron Francis never thought he’d be in the company of Maurice “The Rocket” Richard.
“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 also 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 a 0-for-11 slump. The Hurricanes have the worst ranked power-play team 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 the 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.
“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 playlate in the second period.
O’Neill celebrated his 28th birthday in his hometown. … Toronto’s Gary Roberts missed his fifth straight game with a groin injury. … TheHurricanes are last in the NHL with 118 goals scored.