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100 Greatest Players

Penguins produce star power at NHL100

Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby link Pittsburgh's first Stanley Cup to latest

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- On a stage packed with the legends of "The NHL100 Presented by GEICO" and a horde of media waiting to talk to them, Mario Lemieux was trying to gather some of his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammates for a photo.

When Lemieux finally succeeded, it was just like the old days with Jaromir Jagr standing by his side. Also surrounding Lemieux from the list of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian, which was revealed at Microsoft Theater on Friday, were Ron Francis, Luc Robitaille, Paul Coffey, Bryan Trottier and Sidney Crosby.

"I have to say thanks to those guys I made it," Jagr said. "They were a big help for me: Mario, Ron Francis, Bryan Trottier, Paul Coffey. Even Luc, I played with a little bit. I never played with Sid. I would have probably more goals right now."

Jagr, who will turn 45 on Feb. 15 and is playing for the Florida Panthers, has never played with Crosby, the Penguins captain, but has done pretty well. Jagr ranks second in NHL history with 1,897 points (758 goals, 1,139 assists) after passing Mark Messier on Dec. 22.

Jagr was teammates with Lemieux in Pittsburgh from 1990-91 to 1996-97 and in 2000-01 after Lemieux came out of retirement and before Jagr was traded to the Washington Capitals on July 11, 2001.

Video: Jaromir Jagr second on NHL points list

Lemieux and Jagr won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992. When Lemieux first retired in 1997, he passed the Penguins torch to Jagr. Lemieux later passed it to Crosby, who lived with him when he broke into the NHL as an 18-year-old rookie in 2005-06.

Lemieux, 51, retired for good following that 2005-06 season and ranks eighth in NHL history with 1,723 points (690 goals, 1,033 assists).

Crosby, who won the Stanley Cup in 2009 and last season, said he appreciated the significance of having the last three Pittsburgh captains together on one stage.

"That's really neat," he said. "When you play for a team, you understand the history of the team and the pride that comes with it. Obviously, being around Mario for as long as I have been and seeing Jaromir, I think it just gives you that much more appreciation for it."

Lemieux, as co-owner of the Penguins, gets an up-close look every game at Crosby's importance. Despite missing the first six games of this season recovering from a concussion, he leads the NHL with 28 goals and is second with 55 points (four behind Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers).

Video: Mario Lemieux scored 100 points 10 different times

Crosby, 29, is seven points from becoming the 86th player to get 1,000 NHL points.

"He's an amazing player, an amazing kid, and he's part of our family, and to share this with him tonight is very special," Lemieux said.

Lemieux said he isn't sure where the Penguins would be if they hadn't won the 2005 NHL Draft Lottery and the right to select Crosby with the No. 1 pick. Before Crosby's arrival, the Penguins failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs three consecutive seasons.

After missing the playoffs again in Crosby's rookie season, also Lemieux's last in the NHL, they haven't missed since.

"He saved our franchise again," Lemieux said. "We were struggling. We had to rebuild at some point, and [winning] the lottery really changed the outlook of our franchise and really saved the franchise."

Lemieux did similar after joining the Penguins as the No. 1 pick in the 1984 NHL Draft. But they didn't win the Stanley Cup until Jagr arrived as an 18-year-old rookie in 1990-91.

Like everyone else, Lemieux said he is surprised that Jagr is playing all these years later.

"I can't believe it, but he's still playing well," Lemieux said. "He's in great shape and, hopefully, he can play a couple more years. But he's certainly one of the best ever."

Jagr said he wishes Lemieux also was active.

"I would love to be with him on the ice, but I had my time," Jagr said.

Video: Sidney Crosby delivered on much-hyped promise

Lemieux and Jagr don't see each other that much anymore, but it was evident Friday the bond between them remains strong.

"We don't talk a lot, but as you saw earlier when we see each other we have a good time," Lemieux said. "He loves life and [is] always smiling, so it was nice to get a chance to spend a little time [together] and see my wife as well. He hadn't seen her in a while. So it's always good to see him."

Lemieux said he Jagr's No. 68 will someday join his No. 66 in the PPG Paints Arena rafters.

"He's been a big part of our franchise, he won two Cups in Pittsburgh, he's a Hall of Famer by far, and I'm sure he'll be up there eventually," Lemieux said.

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