PITTSBURGH – Mario Lemieux scored twice during a five-point night and the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from a four-goal deficit to beat the reeling Atlanta Thrashers 7-5 and win for the first time this season.

Down four goals halfway through the first period, the Penguins stormed back with a team record-tying six power-play goals.

The Penguins, in danger of a blowout loss after Ilya Kovalchuk scored once and set up three goals in the opening 9:50, needed 10 games for their first victory – easily the longest stretch in franchise history. The Penguins have at least one point in all but four games, but are 1-4-5.

Lemieux, Sergei Gonchar and John LeClair each scored twice on the power play as all but one of the Penguins’ seven consecutive goals against goalie Steve Shields in his first start of the season came with a man advantage. The only other time in their 39-season history the Penguins scored six power-play goals was Dec. 12, 1986, against Toronto in an 8-3 victory.

Pittsburgh went 6-for-11 on the power play two nights after going only 2-of-12 in a 4-3 overtime loss to Florida. Those 12 chances tied a club record.

The Thrashers fell behind the Penguins in the overall standings by losing their sixth in seven games – using their fifth goaltender in 10 games while doing so. Shields, called up from Chicago (AHL) earlier in the day, couldn’t hold the 4-0 lead, giving up three goals in a span of 1 minute, 16 seconds and four in 4:10 in the second period.

The 40-year-old Lemieux, scoreless in six of his first nine games, had gotten the Penguins back in the game following Kovalchuk’s remarkable start by scoring twice on the power play in the first period, his fourth and fifth goals of the season.

Gonchar, off to a slow start offensively and defensively after signing a $25 million contract last summer, then tied it with power-play goals 2:54 apart midway through the second, each time on one-timers that Shields had no chance to control. Sidney Crosby set up the tying goal, sailing a pass across the slot to Gonchar in the left circle.

With the momentum back on the Penguins’ side and Shields clearly fighting himself, LeClair put the Penguins ahead for only the third time in 10 games at 5-4 by tapping Ryan Malone’s shot across the goal line after it squirted between Shields’ pads.

LeClair’s goal came only 31 seconds after Gonchar’s second goal, and Ric Jackman followed 45 seconds later for the Penguins’ only even-strength goal.

LeClair added his second goal and third of the season late in the third, before Slava Kozlov scored the Thrashers’ first goal against Sebastien Caron in nearly 48 minutes.

Notes: Lemieux’s five-point game was his first since Jan. 23, 2002, against Tampa Bay. … The longest winless streak by an NHL team at the start of a season is 15 by the 1943-44 Rangers (0-14-1), during a 6-39-5 season. … Penguins D Dick Tarnstrom left in the first period with a knee injury and will be re-evaluated Friday. … Caron stopped 30 shots after allowing goals on four of Atlanta’s first 10 shots. … Crosby had two assists, giving him 12, and 14 points, in 10 games. … Shields previously was 3-2-2 against Pittsburgh. … Lemieux also had a two-goal game Oct. 8 against Boston. … Kovalchuk has four goals, three in two games. He was originally credited with Atlanta’s fourth goal, but it changed to Niclas Havelid.

AP-ES-10-27-05 2219EDT


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