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Fighting Lemieux only bright spot in loss



Published: Mon, February 10, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Pittsburgh took it on the chin from Florida, 6-0.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins couldn't solve Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo, which was frustrating enough. Mario Lemieux couldn't stomach what Brad Ference was doing, and his frustration boiled over.

The Hall of Fame center, upset with Ference for a second-period cross-check to his back, dropped his gloves to fight with the fourth-year defenseman late in the Penguins' 6-0 loss to the Panthers. Lemieux was assessed minor penalties for slashing and instigating, a major penalty for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct.

"The way he plays, he's got to expect that," the Penguins' owner said of Ference. "He takes a lot of cheap shots out there, and when the game is out of hand like that, he's going to pay for it."

Lemieux hadn't been ejected from a game for fighting since April 24, 1996, when he took on Washington's Todd Krygier in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Thursday's fighting major was his first in a regular season game since March 20, 1987, at Washington, when he tangled with Bobby Gould.

Doing his job

Ference said he was only doing his job late in the second period when he hit Lemieux, after which the Penguins' captain skated toward him in the neutral zone, away from the play. But Ference then was tackled by Pittsburgh's Ian Moran.

"Some of these star players, you have to play them hard," Ference said. "You let that guy move around with the puck, he's going to get two or three points on you. You have to make sure you're tight on him.

"Before that there was a cross-check down in the corner, too. He deserves kind of a double-standard, too, because he's one of the best players ever. We were just trying to play, but yeah, if I can get any player on their team to take a penalty, it's going to work in our favor."

Asked if he was ready to throw punches at Lemieux during their third-period fracas, for which he was not penalized, Ference said, "At that point, I was just like, 'Let's get back to Fort Lauderdale and call it a day.' "

Luongo had a big day, becoming the Panthers' all-time shutout leader with 14 by stopping 28 shots for his second shutout against Pittsburgh this season.

The Panthers had three first-period goals in a span of 5:22. After Ivan Majesky opened the scoring, Niklas Hagman and Kristian Huselius scored 11 seconds apart late in the first period,

That was the beginning of a tough night for Lemieux and the Penguins, who have lost four consecutive games and five of their last six home games.




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