Carolina cuts Leafs to pulp

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2002

TORONTO -- Jeff O'Neill didn't let a severely swollen right eye keep him from giving the Carolina Hurricanes another overtime victory.

After being hit by a puck below his right eye earlier in the game, O'Neill instinctively knew where to go -- to the net.

And that's where he was, cruising in from the right circle, in time to convert Ron Francis' kick-pass 6:01 into overtime, lifting the Hurricanes to a 2-1 victory over Toronto in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday.

It was Carolina's second straight overtime victory, and gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes Thursday in Toronto. All three games were decided by 2-1 scores.

Francis also scored for the Hurricanes, who improved to 5-1 in overtime this postseason.

Bryan McCabe scored for the Maple Leafs, who not only lost high-scoring forward Alexander Mogilny to an undisclosed upper body injury, but were missing head coach Pat Quinn because of illness.

Earlier in the day, Quinn was taken to a hospital by ambulance where he had tests for an undisclosed chest condition. Listed in stable condition, Quinn remained hospitalized overnight as a precaution and was expected to watch the game on TV.

Team doctor Darrell Ogilvie-Harris said Quinn could be released as soon as Wednesday morning and, pending test results, could return to the bench as soon as Game 4.

''I don't think it helps that you're without your coach,'' center Alyn McCauley said. ''But I didn't feel like we were handicapped or that it disrupted us behind the bench.''

Quinn's longtime assistant Rick Ley coached his first playoff game since leading the Vancouver Canucks to the Western Conference semifinals in 1995.

''I hoped it would be a rallying point, not a distraction,'' said Ley of Quinn's ailment. ''I don't know, possibly it was a distraction.''

Francis sparked the game-winning play, getting around Toronto defender Anders Eriksson at the Maple Leafs blue line. He carried the puck to the net and, after having it tipped off his stick by Toronto's Tomas Kaberle, Francis kicked the puck ahead.

The puck dribbled to O'Neill, who lifted a shot over Curtis Joseph's left shoulder.

''It obviously wasn't one of his prettier assists, but it just kind of squirted free there,'' O'Neill said. ''It was just sitting right there, and I just tried to shoot it as quick as I could. Fortunately it went in.''

O'Neill was struck by a puck fired by McCabe in the first period. With help from trainers to relieve the swelling, O'Neill continued playing. Francis laughed about the game-winner, saying it ended up nothing like he had planned, adding he was trying to pass it to Sami Kapanen.

''It wasn't exactly picture perfect, but you talk about breaks and needing them this time of year, that certainly was one for us,'' Francis said.

The Hurricanes have had a knack for making their own breaks, particularly in overtime. They're coming off a regular season in which they played in a NHL-high 27 overtime games. Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice is impressed by how his team reacts under pressure.

''It's interesting because it's such a quiet room before you go into those overtime periods,'' Maurice said. ''They look like they have played a game, but there is definitely a calm in that locker room before we go into overtime.''

Francis opened the scoring, tipping in Kapanen's point shot 5:15 in.

McCabe tied it late in the second period, blasting Mats Sundin's blind backhand pass in from the top of the right circle.

It was the third game in which the Maple Leafs have overcome a 1-0 deficit. But they only have one win to show for it against Carolina.

''Nobody said it was going to be easy. It's going to be a long series. We've got our work cut out for us,'' Toronto's Tie Domi said. ''They're a good hockey team. They don't get the credit they deserve.''

Mogilny, who leads the Leafs with eight playoff goals, was knocked over by Sean Hill in the opening minute but returned for part of the first period and all of the second. He didn't play after that.

Toronto had the best chance to end the game in regulation when Travis Green was set up open to the left of the net with 3:05 remaining. Green's shot caught goalie Arturs Irbe in the shoulder.

Notes: Ley was 4-7 in the 1995 playoffs as coach with Vancouver, and 5-8 in two playoffs with the then Hartford Whalers. ... Linesman Ray Scapinello officiated his 400th career playoff game -- an NHL record. In his 31st season, Scapinello leads all officials in having worked 2,382 games. ... The Hurricanes have outscored opponents 12-7 in the third period this postseason. ... Toronto RW Garry Valk returned to the lineup after missing eight games with a groin injury.



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