ATLANTA - During a career that lasted more than two decades, Scott Mellanby twice made it to the Stanley Cup finals, played in the NHL All-Star Game and became one of hockey's most respected leaders.

But he'll always be remembered for his coup de grace on a rodent.

Mellanby, 40, retired yesterday, less than a week after Atlanta was swept in the first round of the playoffs.

"It's been a great ride," said Mellanby, who spent the final two seasons of a 21-year career as Atlanta's captain.

His greatest ride came during the 1995-96 season, when the right wing scored a career-best 32 goals, was picked for the All-Star Game and helped Florida make it to the Stanley Cup finals in their third season of existence.

He also contributed to hockey lore early in the season. When a rat scurried across the locker room before a game, Mellanby killed it with a whack of the stick. Florida fans began celebrating goals by tossing plastic rats onto the ice.

Mellanby was acquired by the Flyers in the second round of the 1984 draft. He played with the Flyers for five seasons. He moved on to Edmonton, Florida and St. Louis before Atlanta.

In 1,431 regular-season games - tied for 17th on the NHL's career list - Mellanby had 364 goals, 476 assists and 2,479 penalty minutes. He also appeared in 136 playoff games, scoring 24 goals and adding 29 assists.

Asked how he wanted to be remembered, Mellanby said, "Someone who cared about his teammates and about his organization and about the game. Someone who came to play every night. Every night wasn't great. But I feel like I always gave it everything I had." *