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NHL briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001

Lemieux playing through it, but his back pain returns

PITTSBURGH -- This is the news the Penguins didn't want to hear so early into Mario Lemieux's successful comeback -- his back is hurting.

Lemieux was limited to one assist in the Penguins' 5-4 overtime victory Saturday over New Jersey, then disclosed his back began bothering him again during practice Friday.

Lemieux was in so much discomfort Saturday that he had someone tie his skates, as he often did during back pain bouts from 1990-97.

"That was like the old days," said Lemieux, who played nearly 20 minutes Saturday despite the pain.

The six-time scoring champion cut short his career at age 31 in 1997, mostly because he was weary of playing with a sore back. He missed nearly half the 1990-91 season after back surgery and most of the 1993-94 season after an operation to repair a herniated muscle in his back.

Lemieux had some back pain after the first two games of his comeback in late December, but attributed that mostly to the fatigue that he anticipated after ending a 3 1/2-year retirement.

This time, Lemieux said the pain was more like that he had previously in his career. He left after only 13 minutes of practice Friday and called in physical therapist Tom Plasko, who worked on his back that afternoon and again Saturday morning.

Despite the latest back problem, Lemieux made the trip to Minnesota for today's game and expects to play.

Saturday, Alexei Kovalev scored 18 seconds into OT for his second hat trick in as many games. He is the first Penguin with consecutive three-goal games since Lemieux in 1995.

Ex-Lightning Rich Parent replaced Jean-Sebastien Aubin and stopped all but one of 15 shots for the win.

The Penguins led 4-3 on Kevin Stevens' goal -- their third in 2:33 in the second -- but Scott Stevens tied it with 4:12 left after Scott Gomez won a faceoff in the Pittsburgh end.

PANTHERS 7, THRASHERS 3: Pavel Bure scored four times to take the NHL goal-scoring lead and visiting Florida rallied from a two-goal deficit. Bure began the night tied for second in the league with 31, one behind Washington's Peter Bondra. Bure's last four-goal game was Jan. 1, 2000, against Tampa Bay.

BLUES 4, AVALANCHE 3 (OT): Daniel Corso beat Patrick Roy with 4:10 left in the extra period. Host Colorado has lost four straight. Corso's shot from right of the net deflected off Roy, enabling the Blues to tie Colorado atop the NHL with 80 points. The Blues trailed before Craig Conroy made it 3-3 at 3:47 of the third, scoring from the left circle on a two-on-one.

RED WINGS 3, MAPLE LEAFS 3: Jonas Hoglund scored with 44 seconds left to help host Toronto salvage a point. Detroit and Toronto have played 633 games, and after the Red Wings' win on Thursday and Saturday's tie, the series record is 270-270-93.

SABRES 2, SENATORS 1 (OT): Maxim Afinogenov scored 1:52 into the extra period to lift visiting Buffalo. Miroslav Satan also scored for Buffalo before a crowd of 18,500, the sixth sellout of the season at the Corel Centre. Alexei Yashin tied it at 1-1 in the second.

CANADIENS 5, ISLANDERS 3: Trevor Linden scored on a four-on-three power play and Patrick Poulin added an unassisted goal later in the second for host Montreal.

BLUE JACKETS 3, PREDATORS 2: Geoff Sanderson scored three times, the first hat trick in Blue Jackets history.

THRASHERS: Defenseman Yannick Tremblay (right shoulder) will be out a week to 10 days.

NOLAN SUSPENSION APPEALED: The Sharks appealed Owen Nolan's 11-game suspension, with general manager Dean Lombardi implying an NHL bias against himself and his team prompted the heavy punishment.

McSORLEY LANDS IN IHL: Marty McSorley, suspended by the NHL last year for a stick-swinging attack, was ejected from his first minor-league game. McSorley, 37, signed earlier in the day with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the International Hockey League. Terms were not released. At 17:41 of the third, he joined in a melee involving several players from both teams. He received a five-minute penalty for fighting and a game misconduct.

* * *

TONIGHT ON TV: Blues at Stars, 8, ESPN.

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