Mario retires - for good

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
PITTSBURGH - Unlike many aging superstars, Mario Lemieux's problem wasn't that his heart was no longer in the game. Rather, his heart no longer allowed him play the game the way he had always played it.
The Lemieux way - with greatness and grace, with dominating skills but also with a quiet dignity - may prove very difficult for future generations of hockey players to rival.
Lemieux, his Hall of Fame talent eroded by an ongoing heart problem, retired from the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second time Tuesday in a long, productive yet star-crossed career, but this time was different.
This was the last retirement, and the tears in his eyes and the quiver in his voice said so. So did the proud but sad looks on the faces of wife Nathalie, their four children and the Penguins players who gathered to say goodbye, even though it visibly pained all to do so.
"This is it," Lemieux said, "and it hurts."
The 40-year-old Penguins owner-player learned in early December he has atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can cause his pulse to flutter wildly and must be controlled by medication. He returned Dec. 16 against Buffalo, but the problem flared up again in the third period and he has not played since.
  • PANTHERS 3, LIGHTNING 2 (OT): Olli Jokinen scored twice, including the game-winner with 1:45 left in overtime and Roberto Luongo made 48 saves to lead the visiting Panthers.
    Luongo was within 4 minutes of his first shutout since opening the season with consecutive blankings before allowing Brad Richards' goal, which appeared to hit off Florida's Chris Gratton, at 16:09. Luongo then allowed Ryan Craig's equalizer from the low slot with 48.3 seconds remaining.
  • DEVILS 4, ISLANDERS 0: Martin Brodeur made 24 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and Brian Gionta scored his 29th goal to help the hosts to their 10th win in 11 games.
  • SABRES 2, RANGERS 1: Ales Kotalik had a goal and an assist to lead visiting Buffalo. Buffalo's Ryan Miller made 23 saves.
  • BRUINS 3, THRASHERS 2: P.J. Axelsson scored with 7:02 remaining and visiting Boston handed the Thrashers their third straight loss.
  • BLUE JACKETS 6, CANUCKS 5: Trevor Letowski scored with 4:37 left to lift the Blue Jackets in their highest-scoring home game in five years.
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