Jagr's spree helps Rangers stay alive for another day
NEW YORK -- When a team has no hope, where does inspiration come from?A bubblegum wrapper? A cereal box? An infomercial? Maybe for the members of the New York Rangers, they simply looked onto the ice at Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan, a couple of guys whose faces will one day be immortalized on the walls of the Hall of Fame, and said simply, show us the way. And so it was that captain Jagr, evoking a time when he was the dominant player in the NHL, pulled the Rangers one tiny but crucial step back from the abyss. The big forward broke a 0-0 tie with a virtuoso goal, added a power-play assist and an empty-net goal as the Rangers shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 Thursday night. New York still trails this Eastern Conference semifinal 3-1, but as the Madison Square Garden faithful sent Jagr to the dressing room chanting his name over and over, there was at least the hint of something approaching optimism in the building and in the Rangers' dressing room for the first time in this series. At the very least, this night will be a much more fitting farewell if indeed this is the final home game for Jagr and Shanahan. "[Jagr] has just been phenomenal. Hands down the best player we've had in these playoffs and for a while. He's having fun out there and he's playing great," said young center Brandon Dubinsky, who scored the second goal of the evening, a power-play marker that was just the second with the man advantage for the Rangers in this series.
The Sidney Crosby File
Not surprisingly, with the Penguins losing their first game of the spring, this wasn't a banner night for Sidney Crosby. He not only was kept off the score sheet but also committed a handful of turnovers that led to scoring chances for the Rangers. He did step into Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi late in the third period after Girardi knocked down Marian Hossa. The confrontation earned Crosby a minor penalty, but it's the kind of "stick up for your teammates" play that is usually left to players with less pedigree (not to mention harder hands) than Crosby. But as team captain he understands the message sent by his actions."Obviously we [he and Malkin] don't want to be in the penalty box. Our job is to help our team score, but there comes a point where you have to stick up for each other. Hoss [Hossa] kind of got ran there. You stick up for your teammate. But do we want to be in the penalty box every game? No. But we're going to stick up for each other," Crosby said. -- Scott Burnside
• Part of the nastiness at the end of the game came after Malkin took down Rangers defenseman Paul Mara with a slew-foot. "That's a classless act by a superstar. There's no need for that in our game," Mara said. "It's not like it's a little slew-foot. It's a full kick if you watch the replay," he added. Malkin received a 10-minute misconduct on the play.• Tom Renney made a number of adjustments to his lineup since Blair Betts and Sean Avery were unable to go because of injury; so Petr Prucha and Colton Orr returned to the lineup. Neither had an impact. Renney also sat defenseman Christian Backman and inserted Jason Strudwick. • Gary Roberts was back in the Penguins' lineup after missing the previous five games with a groin injury (and being a healthy scratch). He took Max Talbot's place after Talbot suffered a foot injury in Game 4. The hard-nosed Talbot was wearing a walking cast on his right foot but he's considered day-to-day, coach Michelle Therrien said. •The most recent team to win eight or more consecutive games at any point in the playoffs was the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. The record for wins from the start of a playoff year is nine, set by the 1985 Edmonton Oilers, who also won the Cup that year. •By scoring at least one power-play goal in each of their first seven games, the Penguins tied a franchise record set in 1989. The NHL record for consecutive games with a power-play goal is 16, set by the 1988 Edmonton Oilers. •Sometimes, Renney said, teams that have a huge series lead will "look to see how serious the other team is," which might account for the series being extended by at least a game. For the record, he said he did not expect the Penguins to be one of those teams.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.