Atlanta at Pittsburgh

Super Mario steps up big to lead Penguins to first win


PITTSBURGH -- At age 40, Mario Lemieux still has some big games left in him. This one came exactly when the Pittsburgh Penguins needed it, down four goals in a game that was quickly developing into their 10th consecutive loss.

Lemieux scored twice during a five-point night and the Penguins scored seven consecutive goals, including a club record-tying six on the power play, to beat the reeling Atlanta Thrashers 7-5 Thursday and win for the first time this season.

The Penguins, in danger of a blowout loss after Ilya Kovalchuk scored once and set up three goals in the opening 9:50, needed 10 games for their first victory -- the longest season-opening stretch in franchise history. The Penguins have gotten at least one point in all but four games, but are 1-4-5.

"It's been frustrating for all of us," Lemieux said. "It was scary early in the game but we stayed in there and made a game of it. But it didn't look good early, that's for sure."

Lemieux, Sergei Gonchar and John LeClair scored twice on the power play as all but one of the Penguins' seven consecutive goals against goalie Steve Shields in his first start of the season came with a man advantage. The only other time in their 39-season history the Penguins scored six power-play goals was Dec. 12, 1986, against Toronto in an 8-3 victory.

Pittsburgh went 6-for-11 on the power play two nights after going 2-of-12 in a 4-3 overtime loss to Florida. Those 12 chances tied a club record.

"We talked after that game about moving the puck faster, the last couple of weeks we've been standing still too much on the power play and we wanted some more movement," Lemieux said.

The Thrashers fell behind the Penguins in the overall standings by losing their sixth in seven games - using their fifth goaltender in 10 contests. Shields, called up from Chicago (AHL) earlier in the day, gave up three goals in a span of 1 minute, 16 seconds and four in 4:10 in the second period.

After Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk called a timeout with the Penguins down 4-0 before they had taken their first shot, LeClair did the talking. According to Lemieux, LeClair yelled at his teammates, "We've got to step up because nobody's going to get us out of this but ourselves."

Lemieux, scoreless in six of his first nine games, then got the Penguins back in the game by scoring twice on the power play in the first period, his fourth and fifth goals. The first goal came 18 seconds after the timeout.

"It was 4-0 and we let them have two bad goals and things got out of control from there," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said.

Gonchar, off to a slow start after signing a $25 million contract, tied it with power-play goals 2:54 apart midway through the second. Sidney Crosby set up the tying goal, sailing a pass across the slot to Gonchar in the left circle.

"When you lose nine in a row, you don't have that confidence," Gonchar said. "But the good thing about this club is we stayed together. When it's 4-0, we had all the excuses to lose, but we didn't panic. We all needed this, because there was a lot of pressure on us, with all the talent here and we weren't winning."

With the momentum back on the Penguins' side and Shields clearly fighting himself, LeClair put the Penguins ahead for only the third time this season at 5-4 by tapping Ryan Malone's shot across the goal line after it squirted between Shields' pads.

"That's the way the game is played now, games are won on the power play and today was no different," Shields said.

LeClair's first goal came only 31 seconds after Gonchar's second goal, and Ric Jackman followed 45 seconds later for Pittsburgh's only even-strength goal.

LeClair added his second and third goals late in the third, before Slava Kozlov scored the Thrashers' first against Sebastien Caron in nearly 48 minutes.


  • Olczyk put Lemieux and Crosby on a line for the first time, with Mark Recchi, but they didn't get extended stretches together because there was so much power-play time.
  • Lemieux's five-point game was his first since Jan. 23, 2002, against Tampa Bay.
  • The longest winless streak by an NHL team at the start of a season is 15 by the 1943-44 Rangers (0-14-1), during a 6-39-5 season.
  • Penguins D Dick Tarnstrom left in the first period with a knee injury and will be re-evaluated Friday.
  • Caron stopped 30 shots after allowing goals on four of Atlanta's first 10 shots.
  • Crosby had two assists, giving him 12, and 14 points, in 10 games.
  • Lemieux also had a two-goal game Oct. 8 against Boston.
  • Kovalchuk has four goals, three in two games. He was originally credited with Atlanta's fourth goal, but it changed to Niclas Havelid.
  • The Penguins also rallied from four goals down Oct. 14 against Philadelphia, but lost 6-5 in overtime.
Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
The Penguins finally have reason to celebrate after picking up their first victory of the season. (AP)
The Penguins finally have reason to celebrate after picking up their first victory of the season. (AP)
Related Links
Atlanta (3-7-0)4015
Pittsburgh  (1-4-5) «2417
Three Stars
M. Lemieux

Goals: 2
Assist(s): 3
S. Gonchar

Goals: 2
Assist(s): 1
J. LeClair

Goals: 2
Assist(s): 0

Related Video

Scoring Summary
03:18Power Play - Ilya Kovalchuk (4), Snap Shot - Assists: Marc Savard and Niclas Havelid
08:32Patrik Stefan (2), Tip-In - Assists: Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk
09:00Power Play - Peter Bondra (4), Wrist Shot - Assists: Bobby Holik and Ilya Kovalchuk
09:50Power Play - Niclas Havelid, Slap Shot - Assists: Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa
10:08Short - Mario Lemieux (4), Backhand Shot - Assists: Ric Jackman and Sidney Crosby
19:38Power Play - Mario Lemieux (5), Slap Shot - Assists: Mark Recchi and Ric Jackman
11:56Power Play - Sergei Gonchar (2), Snap Shot - Assists: Mark Recchi and Mario Lemieux
14:50Power Play - Sergei Gonchar (3), Wrist Shot - Assists: Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux
15:21Power Play - John LeClair (2), Wrist Shot - Assists: Ryan Malone and Zigmund Palffy
16:06Ric Jackman (3), Wrist Shot - Assists: Zigmund Palffy and Ryan Malone
14:10Power Play - John LeClair (3), Wrist Shot - Assists: Sergei Gonchar and Mario Lemieux
15:43Slava Kozlov (2), Wrist Shot - Assists: Brad Larsen and Greg de Vries
Penalty Summary
02:13Sutton: Fighting - 5 min.
02:13VandenBussche: Fighting - 5 min.
02:13VandenBussche: Interference - 2 min.
03:52Tarnstrom: Hooking - 2 min.
08:49Orpik: Holding the stick - 2 min.
09:00Gonchar: Hooking - 2 min.
10:03Slater: Holding - 2 min.
12:50Kozlov: Hooking - 2 min.
13:26de Vries: Hooking - 2 min.
19:11Exelby: Elbowing - 2 min.
03:59Stefan: Interference - 2 min.
04:56Crosby: Hooking - 2 min.
09:56Jackman: Hooking - 2 min.
09:56Kovalchuk: Diving - 2 min.
11:47Kozlov: Hooking - 2 min.
13:47Slater: Too Many Men on the Ice(bench) - 2 min.
14:50Savard: Holding - 2 min.
14:50Savard: Roughing - 2 min.
18:41Jackman: Cross Check - 2 min.
07:09Modry: Hooking - 2 min.
07:22LeClair: Hooking - 2 min.
09:24Kovalchuk: Roughing - 2 min.
09:24Odelein: Roughing - 2 min.
13:18Hossa: Hooking - 2 min.
18:27Kovalchuk: Hooking - 2 min.
18:27Kovalchuk: Unsportsmanlike Conduct - 2 min.
Atlanta11915 35
Pittsburgh13107 30
Attendance - 14009
Game Time - 60:00
Referees - Paul Devorski, Chris Lee
Line Judges - Angelo D'Amico, Greg Devorski
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