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Penguins Skate Past Islanders

Mario Lemieux can make it look so easy, even his teammates can get distracted and on some nights, the opposing team, too.

Lemieux and fourth-liner Kip Miller scored before the New York Islanders had a shot on goal and the Pittsburgh Penguins finally beat a team with losing record, winning 4-3 Friday night.

The Penguins 5-2 since Lemieux came out of retirement - ran the Islanders' losing streak to a season-high seven. Pittsburgh also won for the first time in its last seven games against sub-.500 teams, a stretch in which they had three ties.

The Penguins took a 3-0 lead early in the second period, watched the Islanders get back in the game with two quick goals, then regained their two-goal lead on Alexei Kovalev's breakaway goal early in the third period.

"We need to develop a killer instinct," Lemieux said. "Obviously, when you're up 3-0 you want to get that fourth goal and put it away, but it didn't happen that way. We're going to have to play a little smarter."

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  • The Islanders, who have the NHL's worst record at 11-26-4-2, started playing well after they forget they were going up against Lemieux, coach Butch Goring said.

    "Before the game, I was worried about us being a little starry-eyed, and the first seven or eight minutes they came out storming," he said. "We were standing around watching and they quickly built a lead.

    "From then on, I thought we played a terrific game."

    Lemieux didn't need long to score his third goal in two games, beating goaltender Wade Flaherty o a one-timer from the edge of the left circle off Robert Lang's cross-ice pass 2:14 into the game.

    Lemieux's seventh goal in seven games also was the Penguins' eighth in 21 power-play chances since Lemieux returned Dec. 27. The Islanders' Dave Scatchard was off for interference.

    Lemieux's goal was his only point of the night, the first time he hasn't had at least two points in a game. He has seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points in seven games.

    Miller, who didn't play in four of Lemieux's first six games back, made it 2-0 at 3:01 with the Penguins' second goal in 47 seconds, steering a shot inside the far post as he skated across the slot.

    Coach Ivan Hlinka didn't begin playing a fourth line until being urged by Lemieux to start going deeper on his bench.

    "I felt it was important we started getting everybody involved," Lemieux said.

    The Islanders, 1-10 in their last 11 games and accustomed to slow starts, trailed 13-0 in shots before finally getting their first shot on goal nearly nine minutes into the game.

    Still, despite falling behind 3-0 on defenseman Janne Laukkanen's second goal of the season, the Islanders wound up outshooting the Penguins 33-27 and closed to within 3-2 on second-period goals by Bill Muckalt and Zdeno Chara.

    "It's a huge challenge to play against a team like that, and I thought we played well," Chara said. "Every time they had the puck, it was a dangerous situation for us."

    The Penguins, whose inability to put away teams with inferior records has been a season-long problem, finally halted the rally as Kovalev scored his 21st of the season 3:17 into the third.

    Kovalev got free on a breakaway after grabbing a loose puck in his own end and, ignoring defenseman Roman Hamrlik, put a hard wrister from the left circle past Flaherty.

    "I just wanted to get some space to take a shot," Kovalev said. "I didn't want to get in the position of having to go around him, so I shot it right away."

    Tim Connolly scored a power-play goal with 33 seconds left and the Penguins' Matthew Barnaby off for fighting.

    Goaltender Jean-SebastieAubin made 30 saves and now is 2-0 since returning from a six-week layoff following arthroscopic knee surgery. He will likely start Saturday night's rematch against the Islanders on Long Island.

    Notes

  • Goring decided not to start John Vanbiesbrouck, who has allowed 30 goals to Lemieux by far the most of any NHL goalie.
  • The Penguins are 6-6-4 against losing-record teams.
  • Pittsburgh is 4-1 at home since Lemieux returned and 10-10-1 overall at Mellon Arena.
  • The Penguins are 5-2 with Lemieux in the lineup.
  • Defenseman Hans Jonsson assisted on the Miller and Kovalev goals.

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