Penguins star leads the 4-2 come-from-behind win over the Devils with two assists to even the East final series at 1.
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The extra rest didn't make the difference for the Penguins. Mario Lemieux did.
Lemieux ignited a three-goal second period by setting up goals by Aleksey Morozov and Alexei Kovalev in a 2:57 span, and the Penguins rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Devils 4-2 on Tuesday night.
"There was no way that we were going to shut him down the whole series," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said of Lemieux. "It's almost impossible. This guy is a great player. You have to limit his chances. I thought we did, but that's what he does. He makes plays that make a difference in a game. The first two goals were all him."
Well, almost. The Devils gave this one away in allowing the Penguins to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final at 1. They built the lead and then stopped playing the tight-checking hockey that made them champions a year ago.
"I think for some reason or another, they wanted to do it their way again," coach Larry Robinson said of his team's latest playoff lapse. "Every time they play their way, we gave up goals."
Rene Corbet scored the go-ahead in the second period, and Robert Lang added a goal in the third for the Penguins.
Jay Pandolfo and Petr Sykora scored for the Devils, who had an apparent goal by Patrik Elias nullified with 7:52 to go when referee Kevin Pollack lost sight of the puck during a scramble in front of goalie Johan Hedberg.
All-Star defenseman Scott Niedermayer returned to the Devils lineup for the first time since Toronto's Tie Domi knocked him out with an elbow nearly two weeks ago.
The Penguins, who showed little energy playing on 45 hours rest in Game 1, appeared headed for another loss after Hedberg gave up two soft goals in the first period.
"It didn't look too good after the first 20 minutes," said Lemieux, who didn't have a shot in Game 1. "We came back and were upset about it. We made some adjustments and started to skate a lot better."
Pittsburgh's chances seemed to worsen after Corbet was whistled for holding at 9:10 of the second.
However, 10 seconds after he went into the penalty box, the Penguins were back in the game. After the faceoff, Lemieux led a two-on-one break with Morozov. Lemieux snapped a shot off Brodeur's pads, and Morozov whacked the rebound into an open net.
The tying goal came when Lemieux jumped off the bench and intercepted a clearing pass by defenseman Ken Daneyko. He backhanded a soft pass to Kovalev, who sent a one-timer past Brodeur.
"When we got the first goal, everybody started to believe," Hedberg said. "Mario was once again there to make the big plays for us."