Penguins victorious over Maple Leafs in Lemieux's return
Updated: Thursday December 28, 2000 10:22 AM
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Mario Lemieux made a remarkable comeback after 3 1/2 years of retirement, scoring one goal and assisting on two others as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0 Wednesday night.
Lemieux, a Hall of Famer and the Penguins' owner, needed only 33 seconds to show he still can play -- that's when he assisted on Jaromir Jagr's 20th goal this season.
Lemieux's goal came at 10:33 of the second period. Jagr faked out defenseman Dimitri Yushkevich, then fed a cross-ice pass to a fast-charging Lemieux in the left circle and he buried the shot past goalie Curtis Joseph.
Less than four minutes later, Lemieux made a perfect pass to set up Jan Hrdina's goal and put the Penguins up 4-0.
Lemieux, who first entered the NHL in 1984, hadn't played since a playoff loss in April 1997.
The Penguins had lost their previous five home games, their longest such slump since dropping seven in a row during the season before Lemieux arrived.
Lemieux, the first owner-player in modern pro sports history, decided to come back in part to get Jagr out of his slump, and that worked immediately.
Jagr, who has won every NHL scoring title since Lemieux retired but was only 17th in the league going into the game, scored twice during a four-point night, including a short-handed breakaway goal with three seconds left in the second period that made it 5-0.
After only two periods with Lemieux on the ice, the Penguins barely resembled the team that was 0-6-1 in its previous seven home games.
Goalie Garth Snow made the lead stand up through an uneventful third period. Snow made 40 saves for his 11th career shutout and second this season.
Alexei Kovalev scored his 19th goal of the season to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.