BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- All those horror stories you've heard about the Minnesota weather are true. They must be. Here it is mid-May and it's still hockey season.
And the natives couldn't be happier. They jammed the Met Center last night to watch their newly beloved North Stars dismantle the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-1, to go a game up on the visitors in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Championship series.
The Penguins played without captain Mario Lemieux, whose back is acting up again. It wasn't immediately known whether he will be available when the series continues here tomorrow night.
Dave Gagner, Bobby Smith and Gaetan Duchesne scored for the Stars, and Jon Casey allowed only one shot in 30 to get past him. That came from Phil Bourque.
The game began on an ominous note when the Penguins made a stunning announcement that Lemieux wouldn't play because of a back spasms. Lemieux, who missed all but 26 games of the regular season after back surgery and complications from an ensuing infection, complained that his back tightened on him when he bent over to tie a skate.
The Penguins' offense missed him. They managed just 15 shots on goal in the first two periods, during which Minnesota took a 2-0 lead on goals 38 seconds apart by Gagner and Smith.
Pittsburgh goalie Tom Barrasso started where he left off in Game 2, when he stopped all but one of 40 shots to enable the Penguins to tie the series. He stopped the first 16 shots he faced, including all 12 in the scoreless opening period.
The Stars finally solved Barrasso at 7 minutes, 21 seconds of the second when Gagner took a pass from Westland's Mike Modano and slapped it through a gaping hole between Barrasso's pads for his ninth goal of the playoffs. Smith scored his eighth of the postseason with a sweeping wrist shot from the center of the right faceoff circle.
Pittsburgh .. .. .. .. .. 0 .. 0 .. 1 .. .-- .. 1
Minnesota .. .. .. .. .. 0 .. 2 .. 1 .. .-- .. 3
First period--None. Penalties--Errey, Pit (charging), 9:08; Francis, Pit (holding), 13:44; Smith, Min (interference), 16:21.
Second period--1, Minnesota, Gagner 9 (Modano, Johnson), 7:21. Minnesota, Smith 8 (Bellows, Dahlquist), 7:54. Penalties--McRae, Min (boarding), 4:08; Recchi, Pit (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:23; Chambers, Min (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:23; Duchesne, Min (holding), 8:38; Taglianetti, Pit (high-sticking), 12:26; Loney, Pit (roughing), 17:28; Johnson, Min (roughing), 17:28.
Third period--3, Pittsburgh, Bourque 5 (Jagr, Trottier), 1:23. 4, Minnesota, Duchesne 2 (Gavin, Broten), 2:09. Penalties--Bourque, Pit (slashing), 7:20; Johnson, Min (high-sticking), 7:20; Stanton, Pit (roughing), 8:09; Bellows, Min (roughing), 8:09; Gilhen, Pit (holding), 8:13; Gagner, Min (roughing), 8:13; Samuelsson, Pit (elbowing), 8:53; Dahlquist, Min tripping), 13:34; Stevens, Pit, major-game misconduct (spearing), 18:47; Barrasso, Pit, served by Mullen (slashing), 19:21; Gilhen, Pit, misconduct, 19:53; Bellows, Min, misconduct, 19:53; Errey, Pit (high-sticking), 20:00; Smith, Min (high-sticking), Shots on goal--Pittsburgh 7-8-15--30. Minnesota 12-8-13--33. Power-play opportunities--Pittsburgh 0 of 4; Minnesota 0 of 5. Goalies--Pittsburgh, Barrasso, 10-7 (33 shots-30 saves). Minnesota, Casey, 14-5 (30-29). A--15,378. Referee--Kerry Fraser. Linesmen--Wayne Bonney, Ray Scapinello.