Series (Game 1 of 4)

Pittsburgh leads 3-1

Game 1: Wednesday, October 16th
Game 2: Friday, November 22nd
Game 3: Monday, December 30th
Game 4: Friday, January 3rd

Jets 2

(0-2-1, 1 pts)

Penguins 3

(3-1-0, 6 pts)

7:30 PM ET, October 16, 2002

Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1 2 3 T
WPG 0 0 22
PIT 2 1 03

M. Lemieux (Penguins - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 3

A. Kovalev (Penguins - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

M. Hnilicka (Jets - G): Saves: 35, Save Pct.: .921

Lemieux posts three assists; Morozov scores

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- So far, Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins are enjoying the NHL's newly enforced crackdown on obstruction as much as any team in the league.

Lemieux set up three goals, Aleksey Morozov scored his fifth goal in three games and the Penguins held on to win their third straight, beating the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 on Wednesday night.

Morozov left late in the first period when he needed 50 stitches to close a cut in his left ear, but it didn't prevent the Penguins' new top line of Morozov, Lemieux and Alexei Kovalev from piling on more points.

Since being shut out 6-0 by Toronto in their opener, the Penguins -- coming off a 28-win season that was their worst in 17 years -- have beaten the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Thrashers by a combined 14-6.

The Morozov-Lemieux-Kovalev line has scored 10 of the 14 goals while totaling 25 points in three games. Randy Robitaille also scored after replacing the injured Morozov on the top line.

The teams combined for 14 power plays, eight by Pittsburgh, as the league-wide enforcement of obstruction rules again made special teams play important.

"They're trying to give the game back to the great players and that's the way it should be,'' said Lemieux, who has 10 points in three games. "You can make plays out there and it's making it exciting for everybody.''

Atlanta fell behind 3-0, then rallied with third-period goals by Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley before falling to 0-11-0-2 against Pittsburgh since joining the NHL.

"That was the way we are supposed to start the game,'' Atlanta coach Curt Fraser said. "When we got out there, our eyes were as big as saucers watching Lemieux do whatever he wanted out there. We talked all day about it, prepared for it and when we got out there, we didn't do it.''

The three-game winning streak is Pittsburgh's longest since a six-game run in January, during Lemieux's only productive stretch of an injury-ruined season in which he scored only six goals.

Lemieux didn't get a goal after scoring four in his previous two games, but his playmaking was responsible for every Penguins score.

Morozov put the Penguins up 1-0 with about 5{ minutes left in the first period, sweeping a backhander between goalie Milan Hnilicka's pads. Lemieux grabbed his own rebound, carried it behind the net and steered it to Morozov in the right circle.

About a minute later, Morozov was battling for the puck along the boards when Slava Kozlov's pass struck him on the left side of his face.

Morozov did not return, but the injury is not expected to sideline him for Saturday night's game against Tampa Bay.

"You just hope he doesn't get an ear infection,'' Penguins coach Rick Kehoe said. "He's playing well and seeing the ice and doing a lot of good things. It's just unfortunate he got hit with the puck.''

Kovalev made it 2-0 in the final minute of the first period, scoring his first off Lemieux's spectacular mid-ice setup as Pittsburgh successfully gambled by putting four forwards on the ice with the teams skating 4-on-4.

Robitaille scored his second of the season on a power play in the second. Lemieux fed him the puck along the goal line and Robitaille threw it on net, where it appeared to rebound off defenseman Kiril Safronov.

"With the way they're calling penalties, your power play and penalty kill have to be really sharp,'' Penguins goalie Johan Hedberg said. "There were nine goals Monday night in Toronto and nearly every one was a power play, and tonight the last three goals were power plays or shorthanded.''

Kovalchuk beat Johan Hedberg up high to the glove side on a power play at 7:19 of the third to get Atlanta back into it. Heatley got the Thrashers within a goal by scoring on a short-handed breakaway seven minutes later, stealing the puck from defenseman Michal Rozsival.

Game notes

Pittsburgh has outscored Atlanta 55-26 during the 13-game winning streak. ... Lemieux has three goals and 13 points in six games against Atlanta. ... Hedberg stopped 32 of 34 shots for his first victory of the season as a starter. He also won Monday in Toronto, replacing the injured Jean-Sebastien Aubin midway through the first period.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press