Open ice suits Wings fine in rout of Lemieux, Pens
October 26, 2002
BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
Open ice. Up-and-down action. Lots of goals. Mario Lemieux playing for Pittsburgh. In many ways, Friday night's game looked like the NHL of the late '80s and early '90s.
"Obviously, we're trying to improve the game and give back the game to the great players and to the young players," Lemieux said. "There's only one way to do that: Let them skate and make plays."
But the result was very contemporary. The Red Wings won.
Final score: 7-3.
Sergei Fedorov had a hat trick for the Wings. Luc Robitaille scored twice. Jiri Fischer had a goal and two assists. Nicklas Lidstrom had a goal and an assist. Brett Hull, Igor Larionov and Darren McCarty each had two assists.
Alexei Kovalev scored twice and Ville Nieminen once for the Penguins. Lemieux, who came out of retirement in December 2000, had two assists in his first game at Joe Louis Arena since Feb. 27, 1997.
"The way I look at it is, you know Mario's going to get his couple points," Robitaille said. "He's the greatest player in the game right now. You're not going to always stop him, but you can certainly beat his team, and that's what you've got to concentrate on doing."
The Wings' strategy against the hot Lemieux-Kovalev-Aleksey Morozov line was obvious: See No. 66 on the ice? On defense, use Lidstrom and Chris Chelios. Up front, use the Grind Line of McCarty, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby or the top line of Fedorov, Hull and Brendan Shanahan.
"For the most part," Chelios said, "I think we contained them well."
Kovalev gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead 7:53 into the first period. But then the Wings scored five straight goals against the Penguins' porous defense.
Robitaille got the first two in less than a minute -- his first two goals this season -- tapping in passes at 10:53, on a power play, and 11:46.
"It was nice to see Luc break out," goaltender Manny Legace said. "You know he's been squeezing the lumber a little tight because he hasn't scored yet."
Fedorov got the next three in less than 7 1/2 minutes. He went off for hooking 11 seconds into the second, but when he came out he took off on a 2-on-1 with McCarty and put in a rebound at 2:21. Then he circled in the right circle, stickhandled a bit and slipped a backhand past goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin at 5:01. Finally, he came up the right side, dropped the puck for Shanahan and scored at 9:42 after Shanahan sent it back. The hat trick was the fifth of his career and his first since Nov. 22, 2000, against Boston.
"Sergei had some fire in his eyes," coach Dave Lewis said. "Sergei bang, bang, bang -- that would set any team back on its heels."
"Oh, geez," Legace said. "I was like, 'Ooh, keep 'er going fellas.' These guys can break out and start firing at me any time now."
Kovalev cut the Wings' lead to 5-2 on a power play with 16 seconds left in the second. Nieminen turned around low in the left circle and ripped a shot past Legace's glove 4:53 into the third.
But Fischer scored at 5:34, and Lidstrom added a score at 12:35.