For two days, National Hockey League officials bemoaned the fact that their All-Star Game lacked the manufactured accoutrements like the dunk contest and three-point shoot that embellish the National Basketball Association version.

Then, Mario Lemieux stepped on the ice at the St. Louis Arena Tuesday night and thoughts of gimmickry were forgotten as Lemieux turned in a performance that will be remembered as long as hockey is played.

The Pittsburgh Penguins' 6-foot-5 skating artist collected a record six points, participating in all the Prince of Wales scores in a 6-5 victory over the Campbell Conference. His third goal came at 1:08 of sudden-death overtime and ignited a flood of praise for the man who is challenging Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky for the title of hockey's greatest player.

Montreal winger Mats Naslund collected a record five assists as Lemieux's linemate and said, "He's the best player I ever played with. He's so cool when he gets scoring chances. He doesn't panic. He waits and makes things happen."

"You just shake your head as you watch Mario," said veteran defenseman Denis Potvin of the New York Islanders. "It's so smooth for him. I'm out there beating the puck to death and he just does it so easy. It's like the good Lord put the perfect player together. And he's not hiding out there, either. He's so big that everybody notices him."

Keith Allen, the executive vice president of the Philadelphia Flyers, said, "He's going to be scary when they get some talent to play with him. Get him some good wingers and Pittsburgh will be a real factor.

"I've seen enough of him. I'd like to see him traded out of the division . . . out of the conference. Trade him to Los Angeles."

The Penguins, of course, have no intention of trading Lemieux. But Bruce McNall, the new owner of the Los Angeles Kings, said, "I'd give half my team for him."

When it was suggested that half the Kings might not be enough, McNall said, "Okay, then I'd negotiate. And I don't want to get the Pittsburgh people upset, but I'd pay him a million dollars tomorrow."

Paul Coffey, the defenseman who played with Gretzky for seven seasons and now is a teammate of Lemieux, said, "Mario was fantastic, but it shows what kind of hockey player he is when he plays with great players.

"In my mind, Wayne Gretzky is the greatest player ever to put on a pair of skates. That's not taking anything away from Mario. He's 22 and his future is ahead of him."

There has been a suspicion that Gretzky was becoming jaded with his unmatched success and his coach, Glen Sather, addressed that with an interesting comment:

"Mario Lemieux was awesome and it was fun to watch him play. He's a tremendous talent and a great player. I've got a guy {Gretzky} who wears the flip side of those numbers (99 and 66) and who's been the greatest player the world has ever seen. I think it's going to be good for him to have a competitor like Lemieux to keep him going."

As for Gretzky, who shared the old record of four points in an All-Star Game, he said, "Mario put on a show. He's good for hockey. I've been upstaged before and I'll be upstaged again."