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Penguins lose seventh straight at home

1/24/2004

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- For now, a Fleury against an Avalanche is a
decided mismatch, even if there were signs that might not always be
the case.

Peter Forsberg returned from a four-game injury layoff with two
goals and an assist, and the Colorado Avalanche extended
Pittsburgh's longest home-ice losing streak in more than 20 years,
winning 5-3 Saturday night.

"He's missed a lot of practice time, but he came back and he is
still Peter Forsberg," Colorado coach Tony Granato said.

Teemu Selanne scored his first goal in 10 games, Steve
Konowalchuk added a goal and an assist, and Paul Kariya set up two
goals against struggling Penguins rookie goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
in a predictable result to the matchup of the top and bottom NHL
teams.

Despite third-period goals by Milan Kraft and rookie Brooks
Orpik that briefly cut Colorado's lead to 4-3, the Penguins lost
their seventh straight at home -- tying their single-season record
set in October 1983. The Penguins, who have lost six straight
overall, will set the mark if they lose to Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

Colorado backup goalie Philippe Sauve had another rough but
winning outing, threatening to give away the Avalanche's lead
despite making 25 saves. Kraft made it 4-2 early in the third, and
Orpik -- chosen Saturday with Sauve for the YoungStars game at the
All-Star weekend in two weeks -- scored his first NHL goal midway
through the period on a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the
lower left circle.

With the Penguins pressing after that to tie it, Forsberg beat
Fleury with a quick wrist shot with just over four minutes left.
Forsberg has five goals and nine points in his last four games, but
hadn't played since Jan. 15 as he sat out a busy stretch of games
with the sore groin.

"The first period I was a little tired. After that I felt
great," Forsberg said. "We just want to make sure with it (the
injury). It's the middle of the season, and you don't want to rip
it totally open and be out for a long time."

No doubt the Penguins wish he had sat out one more game.

"We had the momentum going our way, but Forsberg came back with
that goal," Orpik said. "You could say he kind of hurt us."

Pittsburgh doesn't need to be in a slump to lose to the vastly
more talented Avalanche, who finished a 3-0-1 road trip and are
11-1-1-1 in their last 14. The Avalanche haven't lost in Pittsburgh
since moving from Quebec to Denver in 1995, going 9-0-1.

The Penguins are 0-8-1 overall against the Avalanche since last
beating them Feb. 25, 1999, and are 1-13-3 in their last 16 against
the Colorado franchise.

Forsberg also scored the go-ahead goal 1:15 into the second
period -- Joe Sakic had scored nearly as fast in the first period --
to make it 2-1 against Fleury, who was back in goal despite giving
up 10 goals in five periods in his last two starts.

"It was better than the last two games," said Fleury, the No.
1 draft pick who is 1-11 since going 3-2-2 in his first seven NHL
games.

Fleury actually played well most of the game while being under
constant pressure, once making three excellent saves in rapid
succession on a Colorado power play. He also stopped Steve Moore on
a breakaway and Sakic on a backhander from close range shortly
after Sakic scored 1:22 in off Kariya's pass from along the
right-wing boards.

"It didn't matter who we were playing, he was going back in
there," coach Eddie Olczyk said of Fleury, who made 28 saves. "He
proved to everybody why he was the No. 1 pick. I thought he
answered the call."
^Notes:@ Tomas Surovy had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who
haven't won at home since beating Chicago 1-0 on Dec. 29. ... The
Penguins' Alexei Morozov, expected to be the team's top forward
except for the injured Mario Lemieux, has gone 30 games without a
goal. ... Selanne had only one assist in nine games before scoring
off Konowalchuk's pass midway through the second. Konowalchuk
scored after that on a shot that deflected off defenseman Martin
Strbak. ... Sauve is 6-0-1 in his last seven decisions. ... Sauve
was down 3-0 after the first period in each of his two previous
starts, yet Colorado didn't lose either time. ... The Penguins have
been outscored 34-6 during their home losing streak.