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Hurricanes 3, Predators 1

March 30, 2000

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Marek Malik, Ron Francis and Andrei Kovalenko each scored as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 Wednesday night.

The Hurricanes, who have won three of five games, are still solidly in the hunt with Buffalo and Montreal for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Arturs Irbe, who gave up five goals in Monday’s loss to Buffalo, stopped 24 shots as he notched his 30th win. He is the franchise’s first goalie to reach the mark since Mike Liut had 31 wins 13 years ago.

Nashville’s Cliff Ronning stopped Irbe’s bid for his fifth shutout of the season with his 25th goal with 2:19 left.

Francis scored his 23rd goal at 10:50 of the first period to make it 2-0. Jeff O’Neill redirected a pass from Gary Roberts from the right side, and Francis fired it past Nashville goalie Mike Dunham as he crossed in front of the net.

Malik’s fourth goal, set up by Jeff Daniels and Paul Ranheim, put Carolina ahead 1-0 at 2:57. Malik’s shot from the left corner behind the goal line grazed Dunham’s right skate and slipped past the post.

Kovalenko sealed Carolina’s win with his 15th goal at 14:28 of the third.

Carolina’s all-star forward Sami Kapanen, tied for second on the team with 23 goals, was scratched from the game and will likely miss Friday’s crucial game at Buffalo as he recovers from concussion symptoms.

Hurricanes officials aren’t sure when Kapanen was injured, but decided to keep him out for precautionary reasons.

The Predators are one win shy of matching last year’s win total of 28 in their inaugural season.

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