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Lemieux posts three assists; Morozov scores

10/17/2002

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.