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|2 октября 1997
Morozov Shines In NHL Debut
Ten days ago, Alexei Morozov was in Moscow waiting to see if negotiations between Krylja Sovetov and the Pittsburgh Penguins would allow him to come to North America. Last night, it finally became clear why Pens put so much effort into making sure he did.
Morozov's entry into NHL could not have been more spectacular, especially considering the team he is playing for. In his first NHL game, he recorded his first goal on his first shot, just like the most famous man ever to wear a Pens uniform: Mario Lemieux.
Lemeiux was in Pittsburgh last night, but, unlike last year, he was not on the team's top line next to Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis. Instead, Alexei Morozov was. And, despite the fact that the newly-formed trio had little time to practice, they were a constant threat to the Los Angeles defense throughout the whole match.
When it was over, Morozov had 1 goal, Jagr had 3 assists, and Francis had 1 assist. The latter two can be expected to rise to the occasion in such instances, but for the 20-year old Morozov, the effort was worthy of much praise.
"It's a big adjustment," team captain Francis said of his young linemate's move from Krylja Sovetov to the Penguins. "For a first game, he played very well."
Pittsburgh coach Kevin Constantine echoed his captain's sentiments, adding that Morozov has come a long way in just 1 week.
"It hasn't taken him long to fit into [the team's] system," Constantine said. "Tonight was a great effort for him."
Even though the top line put on quite a show by contributing to all 3 goals in Pittsburgh's 3-3 opening night tie against the Kings, Morozov's place next to Jagr and Francis will be a temporary one.
"We decided to put Morozov on our first line to give him a chance to break it," Constantine said after the game. "We know, though, that he is a natural right-winger. Eventually, down the road, he will go to the right side."
Given a chance to bask in the glory of his Lemieux-like debut, Morozov instead was very humble about his successful beginnings.
"It was a great honor to play with Jagr and Francis," he told the EuroReport though his agent/interpreter. "I give them all the credit for my goal, my performance."
He also acknowledged that he has still a lot to learn, as he quickly found that the games are played much faster in NHL compared to the Russian league. At the same time, there is no doubt in his mind that he will learn all that he must to succeed.
"I will work very hard," Morozov said. "I did not come to Pittsburgh to be average player. I came to be one of the best."
If Wednesday night's performance was any indication, Alexei Morozov's
goal is well within his reach.