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Jagr spoils Barrasso debut

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO (Ticker) -- The Washington Capitals gave Jaromir Jagr a new linemate, and he responded with his best performance of the season.

Jagr registered two goals and two assists to lead the Capitals to a 4-3 victory over the surging Toronto Maple Leafs.

"There is no doubt in anyone's mind after watching this game who is the best player in the world," Dainius Zubrus said. "People don't know how bad he wants to win. He wants to lead and he works so hard. Everyone feeds off of him."

After getting Washington on the board nine minutes into the second period and scoring the go-ahead goal seven minutes into the third, Jagr set up Zubrus for the decisive tally with 3:05 to go.

Jagr picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in with Zubrus on a 2-on-1. With defenceman Tomas Kaberle diving to break up the play, Jagr flipped the puck to Zubrus at the right side of the net. Zubrus redirected it between goaltender Tom Barrasso's pads as he slid across the crease for his 12th goal.

"Jaromir got the puck and we both had some speed," Zubrus said. "He faked a shot and made a great pass, and I scored a goal on a great play."

Jagr's four-point night was his first with the Capitals and first since collecting three goals and two assists for Pittsburgh on March 10, 2001. The five-time Art Ross Trophy winner entered with four three-point games this season, the most recent coming on Friday at San Jose.

Zubrus, who filled the vacancy left by Adam Oates on the Caps' first line, also had two assists for his first three-point effort since November 27, 2000.

"It's strange. He hasn't played center lately," Jagr said of Zubrus. "But he has a lot of speed. He forechecks and backchecks and can beat guys 1-on-1. When I pass it to him, he shoots, and tonight he scored."

Defenseman Frantisek Kucera had the other goal and Olaf Kolzig made 19 saves for Washington, which moved into 10th place in the Eastern Conference and within three points of idle Montreal for the final playoff spot.

"Every game now is huge," Jagr said. "To get to the playoffs, we have to win 10 of 12, which is hard. I've never faced this type of situation in my career. All of our games now are like playoff games."

Acquired from Carolina on March 15, Barrasso stopped 27 shots in his first start for the Maple Leafs. Gary Roberts scored two goals and Robert Reichel had the other for Toronto, which had a six-game unbeaten streak (3-0-3) snapped.

It also had been 5-0-4 in its previous nine home games.

Reichel and Roberts struck in the opening period to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead. But Jagr halved the deficit nine minutes into the second with his 28th goal, spinning in the slot and wristing the puck through traffic and past Barrasso.

Kucera tied it 3 1/2 minutes into the third by redirecting Jagr's pass around Barrasso's right pad.

The Capitals suffered a crucial loss midway through the third period when defenceman Sergei Gonchar left after being knocked out by Toronto's Darcy Tucker.

Tucker received a roughing penalty for participating in a scrum after the hit.

"Either we have to get better referees or we have to get their eyes checked," Washington coach Ron Wilson said. "It's an elbow right to the head. Both his feet were off the ice. That's a penalty, at least a five-minute major. He knocked the guy out.

"This is one of our top players, an All-Star and Norris Trophy candidate. He's leading all defensemen in goals and points and has been playing great lately. I hope he'll be able to rebound and continue playing. We need him."

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