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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
Mario Lemieux racked up five points Thursday night to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-5 win over the Atlanta Thrashers at Mellon Arena.

Lemieux scored two goals and had three assists as the Penguins (1-4-5) picked up their first win of the year and snapped a nine-game losing skid. Sergei Gonchar added two goals and an assist for the Penguins.

After Atlanta posted a 4-0 lead, the Penguins scored seven consecutive goals – six of them came on the power play, which tied a franchise single-game record.

“It was scary early in the game,” Lemieux said. “We stayed in there, came back and made a game out of it.”

Atlanta scored three power-play goals in the first 9:50 en route to a 4-0 lead before the Penguins even knew what hit them.

“It came so fast, there really wasn’t time for it to sink in,” Penguins rookie Sidney Crosby said. “It seemed like every third shift they were scoring. We realized it was a long climb back, but we know we have the guys who can do it. I don’t think there was a lot of panic.”

Ilya Kovalchuk gave Atlanta (3-7-0) a quick 1-0 lead 3:18 into the contest when he connected on a one-timer that beat Sebastien Caron for a power-play goal.

Patrik Stefan boosted the Thrashers’ lead to 2-0 just 5:14 later when he tapped in a pass behind Caron.                                             

Peter Bondra scored a power-play goal when his shot drifted past Caron 28 seconds later for a 3-0 Atlanta edge.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Just 50 seconds after Bondra’s tally, Niclas Havelid increased Atlanta’s lead to 4-0 when he fired a slap-shot past Caron.

“Down 4-0, it was gut-check time, that’s for sure,” Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said.

Lemieux and the Penguins responded.

Lemieux got Pittsburgh on the scoreboard with 9:52 left in the period when he backhanded a rebound past Steve Shields for a power-play goal. Ric Jackman and Crosby earned assists.

Lemieux scored again on the power play as he ripped a one-timer past Shields with 21.8 seconds to go. Mark Recchi and Jackman earned assists.

Gonchar pulled the Penguins within 4-3 with 8:04 left in the second period. He tallied a power-play goal off assists from Recchi and Lemieux.

Gonchar tied it at 4-all with 5:10 to play in the second period. He one-timed a pass from Crosby past Shields for a power-play goal. Lemieux earned the other assist.

John LeClair gave Pittsburgh a 5-4 edge when he poked in Ziggy Palffy’s rebound with 4:39 on the clock. Gonchar assisted on the power-play goal.

Jackman ripped a one-timer past Shields to give Pittsburgh a 6-4 edge 40 seconds later. Palffy and Ryan Malone earned assists.

LeClair scored a power-play goal with 5:50 left in the third period to boost the Penguins’ lead to 7-4. Gonchar and Lemieux added assists.

Vyacheslav Kozlov cut Atlanta’s deficit to 7-5 with 4:17 to play, but it was too little too late for the Thrashers.

Caron, who struggled early, played well for the final two periods as he made several key saves. He finished with 30 saves on 35 shots.

“He didn’t play very well early, but he made some great saves and gave us the opportunity to get back in the game,” Olczyk said.

The Penguins remain at Mellon Arena on Saturday when the Carolina Hurricanes come to town at 7:30 p.m.

ICE CHIPS – The Penguins scratched Josef Melichar and Steve Poapst…The Thrashers scratched Scott Mellanby and Eric Boulton…Pittsburgh’s Andre Roy and Shane Endicott remained out of the lineup with injuries…Pittsburgh’s Ryan VandenBussche and Atlanta’s Andy Sutton traded punches 2:13 into the contest and VandenBussche appeared to get the better of the short battle… Pittsburgh defenseman Dick Tarnstrom injured his knee in the first period and did not return to the game. He will be re-evaluated Friday...The announced attendance was 14,009…The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins return to action on Friday when they play host to Hershey.

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