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Dynamic Duo

Lemieux, Jagr hit milestones in Pens' 5-3 win

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Posted: Saturday December 30, 2000 10:46 PM
Updated: Sunday December 31, 2000 3:02 AM

  Mario Lemieux Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr talk on the bench during the second period against the Ottawa Senators. AP

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Mario Lemieux's comeback has been just as good as he expected -- and even better for Jaromir Jagr.

Lemieux had a goal and three assists to become the 10th NHL player with 1,500 points and helped Jagr reach 1,000 points by setting up his two goals, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Ottawa Senators 5-3 Saturday night.

Lemieux has seven points -- two goals and five assists -- in two games since ending his 3 1/2-year retirement. He scored an empty-net goal with 13 seconds left, spinning in a bad-angle backhander from the left circle even as center Alexei Yashin tried to swat away the shot.

"I said when I was coming back that I expected to play at a high level," Lemieux said. "I was prepared to play like I can play. And I think I can play better than I've been playing."

The rest of the NHL probably didn't want to hear that.

Senators at Pens
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Mario Lemieux nets a goal and has three assists in game two of his comeback. Start
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As successful as Lemieux's comeback has been, it has benefitted Jagr even more by helping him out of a nearly season-long scoring slump.

Jagr, the three-time defending NHL scoring champion, also has seven points since Lemieux's return, with all four of his goals set up by Lemieux.

"He's been playing awesome," said Jagr, who not long ago had a scoring drought of only one goal in 12 games. "He's making a big difference. He's making us play with a lot of confidence."

That's evident just from the difference between the Penguins' past two Saturday games. The previous Saturday, two games before Lemieux's return, they were blown out at home 8-2 by Dallas.

"We're playing with a great deal of confidence since Mario came back," defenseman Darius Kasparaitis said. "He makes our team very dangerous."

Jagr had two goals and two assists Wednesday in a 5-0 victory against Toronto that was Lemieux's first game since April 1997.

The Penguins, finding just enough ice against Ottawa's neutral-zone trap to shake its big scorers loose for goals, matched a season high with their third consecutive victory. They also sent the Senators to a fourth consecutive loss, tying a season high.

The Senators wasted leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 -- mostly because of Lemieux's ability to constantly find the open man.

"Lemieux and Jagr, they are such unbelievable players," Ottawa goaltender Jani Hurme said.

Lemieux, whose passing skills clearly did not deteriorate during his long layoff, also assisted on Robert Lang's first power-play goal in 25 games, in the first period.

 
Penguins' Career
Points Leaders
Player  Years  Points 
x-Mario Lemieux  1984-97, 2000-  1,501 
x-Jaromir Jagr  1990-  1,002 
Rick Kehoe  1974-85  636 
Ron Francis  1991-98  613 
Jean Pronovost  1968-78  603 
x - active
 

"It's kind of surprising, to be honest with you," Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson said. "You take 3 1/2 years off, you think you would lose a step or two or three. When he's playing out there, it's like he's aware of where everyone else is, where the open ice is. He knows before he gets the puck exactly what he's going to do with it."

Lemieux got his 1,500th point at 1:28 of the third period, taking the puck at the right side of the net and quickly feeding it to Jagr in the slot for Jagr's second goal of the game and 23rd of the season.

Jagr is the 59th player with 1,000 points. He reached that mark on a goal at 5:55 of the second.

Lemieux took Hans Jonsson's feed behind the net and made a wraparound pass to the crease, where Jagr fought through traffic to put it past Hurme, who played for only the second time in 16 games.

Penguins goaltender Garth Snow stopped 28 of 31 shots for the victory. He allowed goals by Petr Schastlivy, Alexei Yashin and Martin Havlat.

Schastlivy scored 1:35 into the game with a backhander from in front of the crease after Mike Fisher dug the puck out from along the boards.

Lang scored on a power play at 10:15, but the Senators answered with Yashin's 10th goal of the season, at 12:28.

Penguins defenseman Janne Laukkanen tied it at 2 with his first goal of the season six seconds before the end of the first period, sweeping in to put in a rebound of Martin Straka's shot.

Notes: Ottawa is 0-4-2 since a 4-0-2 run and has scored only six goals in its past four games. ... Ottawa center Vaclav Prospal was a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game. ... Rene Corbet returned for Pittsburgh after missing four games with a sore back. Matthew Barnaby returned from a four-game suspension but did not play; he has asked to be traded. Kip Miller and Roman Simicek were dropped from the lineup.

 
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