-- Jaromir Jagr and the New York Rangers are riding high into the Olympic break.
Jagr, the NHL's leading scorer, collected two more goals to pace the visiting Rangers past the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 on Saturday night.
|Jason Allison and the Leafs couldn't avoid the Rangers on Saturday. |
(Graig Abel Photograpy)
The victory was New York's sixth in a row, to secure first place in the Atlantic Division heading into the break, and matches its longest winning streak of the season.
"Hopefully, I can keep playing like this in the Olympics,'' said Jagr, who's one of nine Rangers bound for Italy. "And hopefully, I can be even better for the Rangers after the break.''
The goals were Jagr's NHL-best 39th and 40th of the season, while Petr Sykora and Martin Rucinsky also scored for New York.
"(Jagr) has had himself quite a season; he's not missing too often,'' said Leafs coach Pat Quinn. "Even the ones that shouldn't go in, like that first goalaI guess that's what happens with goal- scorers.''
Defenceman Bryan McCabe and Jason Allison replied for the Maple Leafs, while newly re-signed Tomas Kaberle collected two assists. Both of Toronto's goals came on the power play. The Leafs went 2-for-6 with the man advantage, while the Rangers were 1-for-4.
"I thought we played a pretty good hockey game tonight,'' said Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who assisted on Allison's goal. "I thought we were the better team. We were outplaying them halfway through the game, and you look up at the scoreboard and it's 3-0 (for New York).''
It was the second 4-2 win for New York over Toronto in consecutive nights, as the Rangers bested the Leafs by that same score in New York on Friday evening. Toronto is now 9-3-1 in the second of back-to-back games this season.
"The two games, with the exception of a couple of bad penalties, we played pretty well,'' Quinn said. "Tonight, in the first period we were good; in the third period we were good; and, for the first seven minutes of the second period we were good.
"And then we made three mistakes and they didn't miss and so it's two nights of 4-2 lossesaand perhaps they were the best two games we've played in three weeks.''
Rangers goalie and Toronto native Kevin Weekes, the backup behind rookie Henrik Lundqvist, got the start and stopped 26 of 30 shots for the victory.
"We're humble, hardworking and mission- focused,'' said Weekes when asked to explain the Rangers' most recent stretch of strong play. "That sounds simple, but we just do what the coaches outline for us.''
At the other end, Leafs netminder Ed Belfour made 18 saves on 22 shots.
"It's definitely frustrating, you have to use it to motivate yourself," said Belfour on the Leafs' recent losing spate.
The Rangers led 1-0 after the first period and 4-1 through 40 minutes.
Jagr opened the scoring at 12:15 of the first period, when his shot from down low on the goal line banked in off Belfour.
The five-time NHL scoring champion extended his goal streak to five games; he has seven goals u and 11 points u in that span. Overall, Jagr is first in the NHL with 88 points in 58 games.
"(Jagr) is arguably the best player in the world,'' Weekes said. "I don't know if he's `the' best, but he's obviously in that top group of elite players.
"He helps everyone on the team to be better. You can see that with us this year.''
Toronto had a couple of good chances in the opening 20 minutes u Darcy Tucker was stopped on a cross-ice one-timer and Allison hit the right goalpost on the Leafs' first power play u but the Leafs couldn't beat Weekes.
Toronto came out flying after the first intermission, dictating the flow and physical style, but it was New York that ultimately did the damage. The Rangers extended their lead to 2-0 at 5:51 of the middle frame when Sykora wired a snapshot from the slot over Belfour's right shoulder.
Less than three minutes later, Jagr counted his second of the game. A centring pass by Martin Straka caromed off Leafs rookie defenceman Jay Harrison right to Jagr in the slot, who swept the puck past Belfour.
At 12:33 of the second period, Rucinsky made it 4-0 for New York when he ripped a shot from the slot that went through Belfour.
With the Leafs on a power play late in the middle frame, McCabe scored when his slapshot from the point beat Weekes high to the stick side.
Early in the third period, it looked like Toronto might make a game of it. With Rangers defenceman Fedor Tyutin in the penalty box for holding, Allison circled to the front of the net and, like McCabe, beat Weekes high on the stick side.
Toronto continued to apply pressure over the final 20 minutes, outshooting New York 12-3 in the third period, but could not pull any closer to the Rangers. Notes:
Leafs defencemen Ken Klee, Alexander Khavanov and Carlo Colaiacovo remained out of the lineup with injuries. Jay Harrison, the last defenceman to be called up from the AHL's Toronto Marlies started the game and was paired with Bryan McCabe. Tomas Kaberle skated mostly with Andy WozniewskiaIt was announced in the first intermission that Kaberle, 27, had signed a five-year contract extension, through the 2010-11 season.