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Penguins 5, Senators 3

April 12, 1996

KANATA, Ontario (AP) _ Mario Lemieux ignited a four-goal burst in the second period as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 5-3 Thursday night and maintained their one-point margin for first place in the NHL East with one game remaining.

Pittsburgh was trailing 3-1 and being outworked when Lemieux got the Penguins going with a goal and an assist, lifting his NHL points lead to 156 points (68 goals and 88 assists).

Ron Francis scored a pair for the Penguins, Peter Nedved had three assists and defensemen J.J. Daignault and Chris Tamer each had a goal.

Randy Cunneyworth scored twice for Ottawa, Trent McCleary once and Daniel Alfredsson had two assists to pad his NHL-leading rookie points totals to 25 goals and 34 assists.

The win _ while emphasizing the Penguins’ troubling defensive weaknesses _ kept them one point ahead of Philadelphia in the East with a record of 49-28-4.

The Senators remained last in the league at 17-58-5.

It was Ottawa’s final home game and saw the close of successful debut for the new $200-million Corel Centre, which opened in mid-January. The Senators managed only a 6-16-4 record in the building but played their best hockey in four years. Thursday’s capacity gate of 18,500 brought average crowds through 26 games to more than 15,600.

The fans watched an entertaining finale. Pittsburgh outshot Ottawa 34-21 in a game that featured some fine playmaking from both teams and stellar goaltending by Ottawa’s Damian Rhodes.

Francis opened the scoring for Pittsburgh on a deflection just 20 seconds into the game but the remainder of a strangely abbreviated first period was all Ottawa.

Cunneyworth lifted a rebound over fallen Penguins goalie Tom Barrasso during a power play at 3:11. McCleary knocked in a rare goal from Ottawa’s checking line at 6:45 and Cunneworth added his second of the period on a brilliant set-up from Alexei Yashin at 14:01.

Then things fell apart for Ottawa.

Pittsburgh defenseman Francois Leroux’s clearing shot out of the zone shattered a pane of safety glass near the Penguins’ blue line. Referee Richard Trottier started the first intermission early while repairs took place and added 3:50 to the second period.

The Penguins regrouped _ and how.

Only some truly inspired work by Rhodes held Pittsburgh at bay until 10:42 of the second period _ when Lemieux started a four-goal Penguins run by threading a shorthanded goal from an impossible angle between Rhodes’ pads.

Before the period was over, Daignault, Tamer and Francis had scored, (two of them power-play goals), Pittsburgh had outshot Ottawa 18-3 and Lemieux had picked up two points.

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