Lemieux, Jagr hit milestones in Pens' 5-3 win
Updated: Sunday December 31, 2000 3:02 AM
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.
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.
"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.
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.