Posted on April 29, 2008 11:39 PM | Permalink
Perhaps the greatest European-born player in NHL history staged a command performance tonight in the Garden. But Jaromir Jagr's night-long dominance was trumped by the lethal efficiency of one of the gifted youngsters who might one day stake a claim to that title.
Evgeni Malkin lasered home two power-play slappers and set up two other goals with deft playmaking. And when combined with Marc-Andre Fleury's superlative goaltending, that was enough to enable the Pittsburgh Penguins to steal Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, 5-3, and take a three-game-to-none lead over Jagr and the New York Rangers.
Jagr scored a goal, assisted on another, had 10 shots on goal and threw his body around in what could be his next-to-last game as a Ranger, if not as an NHLer -- he becomes an unrestricted free agent unless he wins the Conn Smythe Trophy and has a standing offer to play in Russia.
"We're down, 3-0, and that's too bad," Jagr said. "But we have a chance to make history. That's all. It could be my last game. Let's make it special."
Yet again, special teams proved privotal as the Penguins scored the game-winning goal on the power play for the third straight game -- Malkin's ripper that broke a 3-3 tie with 2:07 left in the second period. The Rangers failed on five chances, including three that overlapped to form a couple of five-on-threes.
That kept the Rangers from really cashing in on a night when they dominated territorially from the drop of the puck, outshooting the Penguins 39-17. Having rallied from 1-0 and 3-1 deficits, the Rangers were done in by an indefensible boarding penalty by Ryan Hollweg late in the second period that led to the Malkin goal.
“I have a very funny feeling about this series. It’s not over,” Jagr said. “It’s just my feeling. I don’t know how many believe me, but we’ll see.”
Game 4 will be played Thursday night in New York. The Rangers could be without Chris Drury, who suffered an upper body injury that sent him to the locker rom for the final 13:40 of the second period and rendered him virtually helpless in the third. The Rangers also lost centre Blair Betts to a concussion when he was struck on the cheek by a deflected puck in the second period.