Lemieux's 2 too much for 'Hawks


PITTSBURGH -- Too much Mario Lemieux. Not enough Jeremy Roenick and Steve Larmer.

That has been the story of a Stanley Cup championship series that will end soon unless the scenario changes.

Lemieux scored a pair of second-period goals and the Penguins played surprisingly strong defense the rest of the way last night to pin a 3-1 defeat on the Chicago Blackhawks before a sellout crowd of 16,164 at the Civic Arena.

In stretching their win streak to nine games, the Penguins grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven final that moves to Chicago Stadium for games tomorrow and Monday.

Lemieux has been unstoppable, strafing the Hawks for four goals on 13 shots.

A search party should be formed to find Roenick and Larmer, who have yet to score and were benched for long stretches last night.

"We should have gotten a split," said Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan, whose team blew a pair of three-goal leads in Tuesday's 5-4 loss that was decided on a Lemieux goal with 13 seconds to go.

The Hawks might have evened the series if they had managed to score during a four-minute power play in the opening period last night. Instead, Bob Errey beat Ed Belfour with a weak, short-handed goal at 9:52 to turn the momentum in the Penguins' favor.

"It was a bad goal and it hurt us," Keenan said. "It made for an entirely different scenario."

So has Chicago's inability to cover Lemieux and a failure to apply any pressure on goaltender Tom Barrasso, who faced only 19 shots, eight during the final two periods.

"We played so well defensively I didn't have much work," said Barrasso, who wasn't complaining.

Keenan, perhaps in an attempt to influence how the remainder of the series would be officiated, did quite a bit of complaining after the morning skate, calling Lemieux a "protected" player.

He wasn't referring to next month's expansion draft.

"They didn't call dives on him [in the series opener]," Keenan said. "He's an embarrassment to himself, an embarrassment to the game and an embarrassment to the players he plays with."

When asked if he cared to respond last night, Lemieux smiled and said, "Not at all . . . at this point."

Chicago's only hope of winning the series is to impede the progress of high-scoring Penguins like Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, who have been hit, hooked and slashed at every opportunity.

Unless the Blackhawks are granted some leeway in these areas, they're through.

Well, the Hawks gave Lemieux some pretty good shots, including Roenick's hook to the throat that didn't result in a penalty early in the first period.

Midway through the second period, moments before Chicago's Bryan Marchment scored to tie the game, Lemieux was blasted to the ice by Igor Kravchuk at the other end.

It made no difference. Lemieux picked himself up and ripped two Rick Tocchet passes behind Belfour 2 1/2 minutes apart to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead with 4:37 left in the second period.

Then Keenan, who still hasn't attempted to shadow Lemieux, turned it into an insurmountable lead by strapping Roenick and Larmer to the bench.

"Everyone was surprised not to see them play much," Lemieux said. "I guess it's up to Mike Keenan to decide who he puts on the ice."

Considering how effective the Penguins were in clogging the neutral zone and picking up the remaining Chicago forwards, perhaps it wouldn't have mattered.

"When the game reached the halfway point," Pittsburgh coach Scotty Bowman said, "we figured whoever scored second might be able to shut down the other team. This was a much closer checking game than the first one.

"We tried to play a safe game once we got the lead. We didn't want to get caught in any outnumbered situations."

The Penguins didn't and now they're up two-zip in a series that may end real soon.

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