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Lemieux raises league-leading point total to 38

11/23/2002

ATLANTA (AP) -- Johan Hedberg claims it's not as easy as it
appears.

Hedberg had 36 saves and Alexei Kovalev scored the go-ahead goal
with 5:51 left as Pittsburgh beat Atlanta 3-1 Friday night, the
Penguins' 14th straight victory over the Thrashers.

Wayne Primeau added an empty-netter with 49.5 seconds remaining,
and Pittsburgh improved to 14-0 all-time against the Thrashers.

"I can't remember a game against Atlanta where it hasn't been
tough, we always have to fight,'' Hedberg said. "I was expecting a
tough one.''

The first two goals came with the man advantage, and
Mario Lemieux had assists on both, raising his NHL-leading point total to
38. He also has a league-high 24 power-play points.

The Penguins, who snapped a seven-game winless streak, have
scored nine of their past 10 goals on the power play.

"We have to take advantage of our chances,'' Lemieux said.
"When you have an opportunity like that with only a few minutes
left, you have to take advantage of it.''

Ilya Kovalchuk tied the game at 1 late in the second period off
an assist from fellow Russian Vyacheslav Kozlov for his team-high
10th goal of the season.

But the Thrashers couldn't overcome an ill-timed penalty by
defenseman Andy Sutton, who was called for boarding with 6:25 left.

Pittsburgh patiently passed the puck around before Kovalev beat
Pasi Nurminen with a one-timer from just inside the blue line.

After the game, Sutton fumed about the call made by referee
Terry Gregson.

"It was a terrible call and the game shouldn't have been
decided that way,'' he said. "We were in charge of the game, and
we dominated the game. It's a shame the game had to be decided that
way.''

Atlanta's loss came in front of new goaltender Byron Dafoe, who
signed with the team Wednesday. He sat in the stands with his wife,
Kim, and watched his new team lose despite outshooting the Penguins
37-23.

"We played good enough to win this hockey game,'' Thrashers
coach Curt Fraser said. "We had a number of opportunities that,
for whatever reason, we couldn't finish. We've got to find a way to
bury some of those.''

It's the second straight game the Thrashers had the shot
advantage, and only the fourth time all season.

But Hedberg was up to the task, constantly stopping point-blank
shots.

"They kept battling, battling and battling,'' he said. "They
have nothing to lose.''

Jan Hrdina gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the first period,
stuffing in a rebound after Nurminen stopped a shot by Lemieux.
Lemieux easily faked his way past Pascal Rheaume and moved in, and
Hrdina was unchecked for his eight goal.

Pittsburgh improved to 1-3-2-2 in its past eight games.

"I've always said we've been playing hard, we've been in games,
and it was the same situation tonight,'' Penguins coach Rick Kehoe
said. "Special teams played big tonight.''

Game notes
The Thrashers assigned F Yuri Butsayev to Chicago of the
AHL. ... Dafoe held an autograph session before the game. ... The
Penguins scored first for the 13th time in 19 games. ... Pittsburgh
C Randy Robitaille, who hasn't scored in three games since
returning from a cracked bone in his foot, was a healthy scratch.
... The attendance of 17,375 included a walk-up crowd of 3,500.