Brian Gionta scored two goals for the second time in two games against Pittsburgh this season, and the New Jersey Devils ran the Penguins' start-of-season winless streak to a franchise-record seven games by winning 6-3 Wednesday night.
Lemieux, whose ownership group paid out millions to reshape the Penguins once the NHL labor dispute ended this summer, was critical afterward of some of his highly paid but underproducing talent. The Penguins are 0-3-4 after never previously going more than the first six games of a season without winning.
"It's a long time to not win, especially so early in the season," said Lemieux, who had a goal and an assist in his third multipoint game. "It's certainly not the start we wanted, especially with the personnel we have here."
Lemieux said the Penguins aren't playing together -- an inexcusable offense to him more than two weeks into the season -- and haven't been into games mentally at the start, causing them to fall behind early almost every night. The Penguins trailed 2-0 in the first after goals by Jay Pandolfo and Scott Gomez and have led in only one game, despite adding players such as Sergei Gonchar, Mark Recchi, John LeClair, Ziggy Palffy and goalie Jocelyn Thibault.
"We have a system, but guys aren't playing together and aren't all on the same page," Lemieux said. "We start playing when we're down two or three goals and you can't do that. That comes from not preparing mentally to play the game."
Gomez also assisted on Gionta's goals in a near-replay of the Devils' 5-1 win over Pittsburgh on opening night Oct. 5, Penguins rookie Sidney Crosby's long-awaited debut game. Crosby got an assist that night but went scoreless for the first time in his short career in the rematch.
"We keep digging ourselves holes and you can't do that," Crosby said. "We have to start taking the play to the other team."
Lemieux scored one of two Pittsburgh goals during a 29-second span of the second period that briefly tied it at 2, but he drew a tripping penalty 8 seconds after scoring to set up a 4-on-3 advantage for New Jersey.
Vladimir Malakhov scored his first of the season on a slap shot from the high slot 23 seconds after Lemieux went to the penalty box -- the third goal in a minute's time. Gionta scored again on the power play from along the goal line 7 minutes later to make it 4-2.
"We made a couple of mistakes and they capitalized, so it was huge to take back the momentum," Gionta said.
Gionta and rookie Zach Parise also scored 27 seconds apart early in the third, Parise's second goal against Pittsburgh and third overall. Gionta has six goals in 13 career games against the Penguins, who lost their eighth in a row at home to New Jersey.
"I can't say why it's been that way, they're just going in," Gionta said of his success against Pittsburgh. "It helps when you play with Gomez and Zach, they work hard down low so you get chances in front of the net."
Thibault was pulled after allowing the sixth goal and has given up 11 on 66 shots in two starts, both against New Jersey. He had been out with a knee injury that occurred during a game day skate Oct. 8.
The Devils, winning their first in three road games, also got a goal and an assist from Alexander Mogilny, giving him five points in two games. He had a goal and two assists in a 4-3 victory over Florida on Tuesday that followed a 6-1 loss to Carolina on Saturday.
"The league's changed, and maybe some of the Devils' wins aren't the way the Devils used to win," Gomez said, referring to some unusually high scores for a traditionally defense-first team. "But we'll take it."
- The Penguins remain the NHL's only winless team.
- The Devils have won 14 of 18 from Pittsburgh over the last four seasons.
- Four of Gionta's five goals are against Pittsburgh.
- Thibault is 3-10-4 against New Jersey.
- Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, making his seventh consecutive start, made 30 saves.
- Lemieux also had an assist.
- Pittsburgh has been outshot in all but one game. The Devils led 36-33 in shots.
- The Penguins are 0-2-1 at home.
- Crosby failed to match Washington rookie Alexander Ovechkin by scoring in his first seven games. No NHL rookie had done so since Ottawa's Alexander Daigle in 1993-94.
- Ten of New Jersey's 22 goals are on the power play.