NEW YORK (AP) -- Jaromir Jagr yelled at his struggling team in
the second period then gave the New York Rangers the on-ice
pick-me-up they've been lacking.
"We needed to win an ugly game," said Jagr, whose NHL-leading
45th goal in the third period pushed the Rangers to a 5-4 win over
the Washington Capitals that snapped a season-worst, six-game
Jagr has always been a reluctant leader but he is the main
reason the Rangers have been playoff contenders all season and why
they moved two points ahead of Philadelphia in the race for the
Atlantic Division title Thursday night.
When he screamed at the bench after the Rangers squandered two
leads to the lowly Capitals, coach Tom Renney calmed the MVP
It worked, because Jagr's winning goal was as relaxed and
impressive as a hockey move can be.
Jagr, who also assisted on Petr Sykora's second-period goal,
used his backhand to forcefully steer around defenseman Shaone
Morrisonn, switched the puck to his forehand and slid a shot around
Olie Kolzig's pad at 7:08 while the teams were skating 4-on-4.
"He was the difference maker," Renney said. "The strength of
the man and the ability to get around the defenseman, get it to the
net and put it away is unbelievable. That's what makes him
And just what the Capitals thought they were getting when they
acquired Jagr from Pittsburgh. But after 2½ lackluster seasons in
Washington, he was sent to New York.
Now the Rangers are in position to reach the playoffs for the
first time since 1997.
This one didn't come easy. New York blew a two-goal lead for the
second straight home game, against the team with the second-fewest
points in the NHL.
"It was not pretty. That might be the understatement of the
year," Renney said.
New York busted out of its scoring slump with three power-play
goals -- taking advantage of the league's worst road penalty killers
after scoring only nine times overall in the losing skid that
included two overtime defeats.
Ozolinsh tied it with his first Rangers goal since being
acquired a week earlier from Anaheim. He zipped a shot through
traffic and past Kolzig 4 seconds into a power play and with 1:19
left in the second period.
Things didn't start well for New York when Nylander was given a
4-minute, high-sticking penalty just 24 seconds in.
Henrik Lundqvist, who earned his first victory since leading
Sweden to the Olympic gold medal, kept the Capitals off the board
when he robbed Dainius Zubrus from in close with a snatching glove
on the power play. Two minutes after Nylander got out of the box,
New York took the lead.
Rucchin finished off a pretty passing play started by Martin
Straka and Ozolinsh, and steered a shot into an open net before
Kolzig could get back into position at 6:36 of the first.
Prucha made it 2-0 1:56 later with his first goal in his second
home game back from a knee injury that kept him out of the
Olympics. Lundqvist, who finished with 36 saves, earned an assist.
Sutherby cut the Capitals' deficit to 2-1 with 2:41 left in the
period in which they held a 19-11 shots advantage. Washington tied
it on Willsie's goal at 1:17 of the second.
Sykora's 17th put New York back in front, but Washington tied it
on Muir's eighth and took the lead on Clark's 15th.
The Capitals, who held a 40-27 shots edge, thought they got even
again in the third but the goal with just under 9 minutes remaining
was waved off by referee Tom Kowal.
"Did I hear a whistle before the puck went in the net? No, of
course not," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. "The interpretation
of the rule was explained to me and I don't agree with it."
Ozolinsh, who helped set up Rucchin's goal, has assists in
three straight games. ... LW Ben Clymer, who had two assists,
matched his career high with three points in Washington's loss to
Buffalo on Tuesday. He has three goals and five assists in five
games. ... The Rangers had D Marek Malik (shoulder) back in the
lineup but were without LW Martin Rucinsky. Malik assisted on
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Madison Square Garden Location: New York, New York
Referees: Kerry Fraser, Tom Kowal Linesmen: Anthony Sericolo, Mark Shewchyk
Attendance: 18,200 (101.1% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Steve Rucchin (12)
(Power Play) Assists: Sandis Ozolinsh, Martin Straka
Petr Prucha (26)
Assists: Michael Nylander, Henrik Lundqvist
Brian Sutherby (13)
Assist: Ben Clymer
Brian Willsie (14)
Assist: Jeff Halpern
Petr Sykora (17)
(Power Play) Assists: Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka
Bryan Muir (8)
Assists: Ben Clymer, Brian Sutherby
Chris Clark (15)
Assists: Dainius Zubrus, Ivan Majesky
Sandis Ozolinsh (4)
(Power Play) Assist: Michael Nylander
Jaromir Jagr (45)
Assists: Marek Malik, Michael Nylander