PITTSBURGH (AP) _ For now, a Fleury against an Avalanche is a decided
mismatch, even if there were signs that might not always be the case.
Peter Forsberg returned from a four-game injury layoff with two goals and an
assist, and the Colorado Avalanche extended Pittsburgh's longest home-ice
losing streak in more than 20 years, winning 5-3 Saturday night.
``He's missed a lot of practice time, but he came back and he is still Peter
Forsberg,'' Colorado coach Tony Granato said.
Teemu Selanne scored his first goal in 10 games, Steve Konowalchuk added a
goal and an assist, and Paul Kariya set up two goals against struggling
Penguins rookie goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in a predictable result to the matchup
of the top and bottom NHL teams.
Despite third-period goals by Milan Kraft and rookie Brooks Orpik that
briefly cut Colorado's lead to 4-3, the Penguins lost their seventh straight at
home _ tying their single-season record set in October 1983. The Penguins, who
have lost six straight overall, will set the mark if they lose to Tampa Bay on
Colorado backup goalie Philippe Sauve had another rough but winning outing,
threatening to give away the Avalanche's lead despite making 25 saves. Kraft
made it 4-2 early in the third, and Orpik _ chosen Saturday with Sauve for the
YoungStars game at the All-Star weekend in two weeks _ scored his first NHL
goal midway through the period on a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the
lower left circle.
With the Penguins pressing after that to tie it, Forsberg beat Fleury with a
quick wrist shot with just over four minutes left. Forsberg has five goals and
nine points in his last four games, but hadn't played since Jan. 15 as he sat
out a busy stretch of games with the sore groin.
``The first period I was a little tired, after that I felt great,'' Forsberg
said. ``We just want to make sure with it (the injury). It's the middle of the
season, and you don't want to rip it totally open and be out for a long time.''
No doubt the Penguins wish he had sat out one more game.
``We had the momentum going our way, but Forsberg came back with that
goal,'' Orpik said. ``You could say he kind of hurt us.''
Pittsburgh doesn't need to be in a slump to lose to the vastly more talented
Avalanche, who finished a 3-0-1 road trip and are 11-1-1-1 in their last 14.
The Avalanche haven't lost in Pittsburgh since moving from Quebec to Denver in
1995, going 9-0-1.
The Penguins are 0-8-1 overall against the Avalanche since last beating them
Feb. 25, 1999, and are 1-13-3 in their last 16 against the Colorado franchise.
Forsberg also scored the go-ahead goal 1:15 into the second period _ Joe
Sakic had scored nearly as fast in the first period _ to make it 2-1 against
Fleury, who was back in goal despite giving up 10 goals in five periods in his
last two starts.
``It was better than the last two games,'' said Fleury, the No. 1 draft pick
who is 1-11 since going 3-2-2 in his first seven NHL games.
Fleury actually played well most of the game while being under constant
pressure, once making three excellent saves in rapid succession on a Colorado
power play. He also stopped Steve Moore on a breakaway and Sakic on a
backhander from close range shortly after Sakic scored 1:22 in off Kariya's
pass from along the right-wing boards.
``It didn't matter who we were playing, he was going back in there,'' coach
Eddie Olczyk said of Fleury, who made 28 saves. ``He proved to everybody why he
was the No. 1 pick. I thought he answered the call.''