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Part 3: Amazing pace gives Lemieux scoring title

Saturday, 03.02.2013 / 3:00 AM / 92/93: Greatest Season?

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Mario Lemieux's 1992-93 season became one of the most remarkable for a professional athlete in the history of organized sport. Lemieux had missed more than 100 games with back problems in his career, but on Jan. 12, 1993, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced their 27-year-old superstar center had cancer.

When Mario Lemieux returned in March, he trailed Buffalo Sabres forward Pat LaFontaine by 12 points for the NHL scoring lead. Lemieux finished the season with 30 goals and 26 assists in 20 games -- a 229-point projection over the course of a full season -- to pass LaFontaine and capture the Art Ross Trophy by 12 points.

Lemieux finished with 69 goals and 160 points in 60 games.

The Penguins were a League-best 29-11-2 before Lemieux's absence, and he was on pace to challenge Wayne Gretzky's NHL record of 216 points. They went 11-10-2 without Lemieux, but his return sparked an NHL-record 17-game winning streak before a tie against the New Jersey Devils in the final contest of the regular season.

'92-93 SEASON: LEMIEUX'S COMEBACK

Part 1: Mario's great moment in sports

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer
The 1992-93 NHL season provided one of the great moments not only in hockey history, but all of sports, when Mario Lemieux returned from cancer treatments to go on a torrid scoring spree to win the points race.  READ MORE ›
Mike Lange, Pittsburgh Penguins play-by-play announcer

"No question, it gave them a gigantic lift. When you go through a streak, quite honestly, you're not really aware of it. The media is talking about it all the time, but those guys are just playing hockey. You're going from place to place and the streak just kind of builds. It is like what Chicago is going through right now. They don't know why it is happening, but it is."

Tom McMillan, former beat writer, freelance writer covering the Penguins

"The run he went on was beyond belief. He was significantly behind Pat LaFontaine in the scoring race. He missed six weeks. He won the scoring title and it was something like [56] points in [20] games. It was a ridiculous pace. It would have been ridiculous even if he hadn't gone through any physical maladies. To do that in this context was amazing."

Dave Tippett, Pittsburgh Penguins forward

"I didn't play a lot with Mario; he had his set line with Kevin Stevens and Rick Tocchet the year I was there. But even in practice, at half speed, you could see the vision and what set him apart from other players. [Wayne] Gretzky would outthink you. Mario would just beat you and score. He had the reach and the physical size, and he just made it so hard on everyone. When he came back that year he wasn't anywhere close to 100 percent, but he didn't need to be. He was that much better."

Rick Tocchet, Pittsburgh Penguins forward

"Coming back from cancer and doing what he did, I don't know if it's a surprise, but I guess it's a feeling that it's just amazing, you're playing with a guy and he just did that. But it's not like it was surprising, because I watched him in practice every day and I knew what he could do."

Rod Brind'Amour, Philadelphia Flyers forward

"That just shows you how dominant he was at that time. I can only imagine what he would have put up had he played all those games. Such a phenomenal player, and his health really kind of held him back at times. He had the bad back issues. You could tell from playing against him that he took shifts off to get through some games. He would sit back and then decide, 'OK, I've got to go this shift.' Then he would just dominate and he'd take another shift off. That's how good he was, though."

McMillan

"This happened with the back problems, too, but he was so good so fast, you forgot that he had just battled cancer. It was like he got back to his level so quickly that it wasn't even part of the thought process when you were judging him for his greatness, which speaks to how incredible it all really was."

Craig Adams, who was 15 years old at the time

"I remember it very well. Obviously he was the best player in the League that year. My friends and I followed the statistics pretty closely. By the time he came back from treatment, I think Pat LaFontaine had gotten [12] points ahead of him in the scoring race, and by the time it was over, Lemieux won it. When he came back, that stretch of games was the most unbelievable stretch of hockey I'd ever seen. Every night it seemed like three or four points."

Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins forward

"How can I explain it? You kind of appreciate it later on when you get more information about it. Like I said, it was a different world. Looking back right now, it's a lot more impressive even than it was back then. I was 19 years old and I didn't know anything about it [Hodgkin's disease]."

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 69 | ASST: 91 | PTS: 160
SOG: 286 | +/-: 55

Adams

"I don't think I realized at the time how serious it was. I just knew how much time he missed. As an adult, if you put that in perspective now, it's unbelievable."

McMillan

"Other than the Philly game, he had the five-goal game in Madison Square Garden when the team went on the unbeaten streak at the end of the year. After the fifth goal, the Garden crowd gave him a standing ovation. You had a situation where this guy got standing ovations as a visiting player in the Spectrum and Madison Square Garden. That is unheard of. It just speaks to the magnificence of what he did under those circumstances. Even the rival fans, even two of the toughest places to play in the League and two of the places that were the hardest on him throughout his career, as they are on all great players. They were always all over Mario, but under these circumstances they gave him standing ovations."

Ken Hitchcock, Philadelphia Flyers assistant coach

"Yeah, the story was remarkable, but I think the person's more remarkable. He fought adversity his whole NHL career. He kept coming back. We had him in 2002, and the last hockey game he played was the gold-medal game. He played on one leg. He was better than 90 percent of the players in the Olympics on one leg. He was just smarter. He knew how to manage his ice. He knew where the puck was going to go. His intelligence on the ice was so far above everybody else ... he and [Steve] Yzerman were so far above everybody else, and they were both badly-hurt players but found a way to be productive."

As back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions, the Penguins were heavy favorites to make it a three-peat. That bid ended in the second round, when the New York Islanders staged one of the biggest upsets in League playoff history, winning the series with an overtime goal by David Volek in Game 7 at the Civic Arena.

Lange

"There is no question that was the best team Pittsburgh has ever fielded. The hockey gods are fair. They won the Cup in '91 when no one expected them to make the playoffs. They hadn't the year before, but they got in and a won a Cup. They got up against a very tough team to play in the New York Islanders and the Islanders played good hockey. They played tough and were able to knock the Penguins off. They definitely had their strongest team that year, though."

Pat LaFontaine, Buffalo Sabres forward

"He's one of those special players who comes around once in a blue moon. To cap off that season the way he did and the way he did it … incredible. Just going through what he went through made it that much more of a special story for so many people. I would have given up all my 148 points that season if it meant beating Montreal in the playoffs, but I was happy for Mario's story and how he showed the courage to come back in overcoming lymphoma and to know that was the inspiration for a lot of people. It was a special season for sure."

NHL.com Correspondents Jerry Brown, Kurt Dusterberg, Steve Hunt, Louie Korac and Alain Poupart; NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen; and NHL.com Staff Writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this story

Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild