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Jagr shines, but Rangers fail to keep lead

2/5/2004

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Rangers gave former goalie Mike
Richter a silver-plated net and a shiny new boat. They just
couldn't deliver a much-needed victory.

Sergei Zholtok scored the tying goal early in the third period
and Marian Gaborik added the winner with 6:26 left to rally the
Minnesota Wild to a 4-3 victory Wednesday night.

Zholtok made it 3-3 with a power-play goal just 51 seconds into the final period, and Gaborik gave Minnesota the lead by snapping off a wrist shot from the left circle. All-Star goalie Dwayne Roloson made the outlet pass to Antti Laaksonen, who then got the puck to Gaborik.

"In between the second and third, we talked about getting a jump
on them," said Gaborik, who hadn't scored since Dec. 26.

The Rangers started slowly after a long pregame ceremony in
which Richter had his No. 35 raised to the Madison Square Garden
rafters. But Jaromir Jagr scored two goals and added an assist in
the second period as New York took a 3-2 lead.

"It's my job to score goals, and I had my chances, but somehow
the game slipped and I don't know why," Jagr said.

Roloson stopped 25 shots to prevent the Rangers from winning
consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 29-30.

Zholtok, who also scored in the second period, had the 10th
two-goal game of his career. The Wild have earned points in five
straight games (2-0-1-2) as they try to creep back into the playoff
hunt.

"It's crucial," Zholtok said. "We are confident we can come
back even from a one-goal deficit in the third period."

Laaksonen gave the Wild a 1-0 lead in the first period, and
Zholtok stretched it to a two-goal advantage in the second before
Jagr took over.

Jagr set up Petr Nedved's goal 1:40 after Zholtok scored,
then Jagr netted two goals 4:19 apart to give him his 14th straight
20-goal season in the NHL.

Jagr had his second three-point game in seven contests since the
Rangers acquired him from Washington. Martin Rucinsky and Bobby Holik had two assists apiece for New York.

Laaksonen scored just 4:34 in when he ripped a shot between the
pads of Richter's replacement, Mike Dunham.

"We've got to get better goaltending, there's no doubt about
it," Rangers coach Glen Sather said. "We're starting to score
some goals, but we can't give up those kinds of goals."

Wild coach Jacques Lemaire also chimed in about New York's
goaltending in the midst of praising Richter. Lemaire was the coach
of the New Jersey Devils, who were beaten by the Rangers in 1994 en
route to New York's first Stanley Cup title in 54 years.

"He was hard to beat, competitive. One of the great ones,"
Lemaire said. "Maybe he's the guy they're missing now to get the
Cup."

The Rangers are trying to get the playoffs for the first time
since 1997. They are in 10th place, eight points out of a
postseason position.

Zholtok scored his first with help from a fortuitous bounce of
the puck. Alexandre Daigle's shot hit a crowd in front and
deflected over to Zholtok, who slapped in a poor-angle shot from
the bottom of the right circle.

"You can say lucky bounces, but we had a power-play goal and
scored on a rush, and it was enough to win," Zholtok said.

Nedved cut New York's deficit in half when he followed up his
backhander that was kicked out by Roloson. Nedved charged in and
knocked his second backhanded shot in at 5:53.

Jagr tied it just under six minutes later. Rucinsky made
a pass from the No. 35 logo painted behind the goal in Richter's
honor out to Jagr, who snapped a quick shot into the open left side
of the net.

New York grabbed its first lead at 15:41. Jagr curled in the
right circle with the puck and let a shot go that was stopped by
Roloson. But he couldn't control the rebound, which Jagr found and
slid in through traffic.

Game notes
Jagr scored 10 goals against Richter. ... The Rangers have only retired two other numbers, No. 7 for forward Rod Gilbert and the No. 1 worn by goalie Eddie Giacomin.