December 27, 2000 was like a bonus Christmas present for Pittsburgh Penguins fans. On that day, franchise savior Mario Lemieux began what would be an incredible return to the game with a great performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
His first year was such a great success that he ended up being one of the three final nominees for the Hart Trophy. He managed to do so despite playing an abbreviated season in which he more or less got back into playing form on the fly. (His teammate Jaromir Jagr also was nominated for the Hart, but neither Penguin won the MVP that year).
While Lemieux worked all his magic in the Igloo, the Consol Energy Center will feature an easy-to-justify statue of the team’s greatest player and owner. Pittsburgh-area radio personality Mark Madden says that the team will unveil the statue on December 27, 2010, the tenth anniversary of Lemieux’s first game back in a Penguins uniform.
Sources indicate that 12.27.10 – the 10-year anniversary of Mario Lemieux’s comeback – will be the day the Penguins and Consol Energy Center unveil a statue of Lemieux outside the building. This will be just five days before the Winter Classic at Heinz Field and part of a week-long hockey extravaganza for the city.
The statue will reportedly depict Lemieux, with the puck, beating a defenseman. No word if the defenseman in question will be Ray Bourque, the Hall-of-Fame blueliner so frequently victimized by Mario throughout their careers.
But it should be. Mario sure made Bourque look like a statue back then.
Madden writes that Lemieux didn’t want the statue, but “common sense” prevailed. I agree completely; if the Los Angeles Kings have a Wayne Gretzky statue than surely the Penguins should have one for Super Mario.
The best part of the story might be that the ownership group – rather than fans or taxpayers – are the ones footing the bill for the likeness.
It’s hard to believe that ten years passed since Lemieux’s outstanding comeback. Will Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin one day be looked upon with the same reverence as Lemieux? They might end up being close to – if not better than – the player he was, but few players meant more to a team than Lemieux did to the Penguins. In any sport, really.
(H/T to Sean Leahy.)
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game midway through the third period to push the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Saturday night.
Hartnell scored in the first period and got the tiebreaker in the third, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a terrible second period to beat the Hurricanes for the second time this week. Carolina has lost three straight.
Markus Hannikainen also scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky had 35 saves for Columbus.
Sebastian Aho and Justin Faulk scored in the second period for Carolina. Michael Leighton, recalled from Charlotte of the AHL on Thursday, started in place of Cam Ward and stopped 17 shots.
Hannikainen poked in the first goal for Columbus 4:49 into the game off a rebound in front of Carolina’s net. The shot through traffic resulted in the first goal and point of the 23-year-old rookie’s NHL career.
About 10 minutes later, Hartnell got a breakaway and slammed a slap shot past Leighton’s glove from just inside the blue line to put Columbus up 2-0 at the first break.
“I just tried to bury my head and shoot as hard as I could,” Hartnell said.
The second period belonged to the Hurricanes.
Carolina got the first one back on a power play 9:05 in when Aho picked up the loose puck off Jaccob Slavin‘s blocked slap shot and found the net from eight feet out.
Justin Faulk tied it at 2 when he carried the puck through the neutral zone and snapped off a shot from the right circle that rattled off the bar and in with 4:33 left. Carolina outshot Columbus 9-2 in the period, and Blue Jackets players went to the penalty box four times.
Hartnell got the winner when he took a pass from Sam Gagner and knocked it in from 13 feet with 9:35 left.
Carolina pulled the goalie with 2:32 left but couldn’t tie it.
Alexei Emelin has once again drawn the ire of opposing players.
This time, it was the Buffalo Sabres responding to a hit thrown by Emelin, who caught Matt Moulson with a dangerous hit from behind into the boards during the second period of their game on Saturday.
A massive scrum ensued right over top of Emelin and Moulson along the boards.
Emelin, who has a history of massive and questionable hits throughout his career (See here, here and here for examples) was given a minor penalty for boarding on the play.
Wayne Simmonds is not only a productive power forward, but he’s one tough customer.
He showed that again Saturday, dropping the gloves with Miles Wood of the New Jersey Devils during the first period.
The fight occurred right after Wood drove Radko Gudas hard into the boards on the forecheck. The scrap didn’t last long, however, with Simmonds landing a few shots and then taking the Devils forward to the ice.
Simmonds was assessed an extra roughing minor.
The Chicago Blackhawks and L.A. Kings have made a minor league trade on Saturday.
The Blackhawks acquired forward Michael Latta, who has 113 games of NHL experience with the Washington Capitals, in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.
Latta will report to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, according to the Blackhawks. In 29 games this season with the Ontario Reign, Latta has two goals and six points.
Schilling, 28, is expected to be assigned to the Reign, the team said in a release.
In 40 games this season with the IceHogs, Schilling has seven goals and 17 points.