February 10, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) -- Henrik Lundqvist's stellar rookie season has been that much better because he hasn't had to face the rejuvenated Jaromir Jagr.
That could all change soon enough with an Olympic medal on the line.
"Jaromir Jagr is on fire right now,'' Lundqvist said. "It's going to be tough for Sweden next week.''
Jagr, the Czech Republic's star forward, scored twice and added an assist in New York's four-goal second period, and Lundqvist won his 25th game as the Rangers rallied to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 Friday night.
Jagr connected twice on the power play and got New York even at one and two in a 2:45 span of the middle frame. His first goal moved him past New York Islanders great Mike Bossy into sole possession of 16th place on the NHL career list. His second - No. 575 - was his league-leading 38th of the season.
"Well it doesn't matter how I feel. Sometimes it's a matter of luck,'' said Jagr, who has 10 points in four games and is first in the NHL with 86 points. "Sometimes you have so many chances and you can't score and other times you feel like every shot is going to go in. That's the way I have felt the last couple games.''
Chad Kilger gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead for the eighth straight game, but Toronto is only 3-3-2 in those contests. Darcy Tucker restored the Leafs' advantage just 48 seconds after Jagr's first goal.
The game was tied again 1:57 later, and the Rangers were on the way to their fifth consecutive victory and sixth in seven contests. They stormed ahead on goals by Jagr, Tom Poti and Petr Sykora.
New York maintained its Atlantic Division lead and snapped a five-game winless skid (0-4-1) against Toronto by beating the Maple Leafs for the first time since Jan. 13, 2003.
It's been quite a week for Lundqvist, who is expected to get the night off Saturday when the Rangers meet the Leafs again in Toronto in the teams' finale before the league shuts down for the Turin Olympics.
The 23-year-old Lundqvist (25-7-6) starred on Wednesday in New York's 5-1 victory over Ottawa and its Czech goaltending star, Dominik Hasek.
He followed that up with a 19-save performance over another likely Hall of Famer, Ed Belfour of Toronto. Lundqvist is just the third Rangers rookie to reach 25 wins in a season. Johnny Bower and Jim Henry share the club mark of 29.
Kilger took a pretty behind-the-back pass from Kyle Wellwood in the right circle and smacked in a shot at 8:26.
Jagr tied it 1:21 into the second, 35 seconds after Alexander Steen's high-sticking penalty. Tucker made it 2-1 at 2:09 before Jagr struck again at 4:06 - 13 seconds after Tomas Kaberle went off for holding.
"Their power play is deadly,'' defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "Jagr put on a clinic out there.''
Poti came out of the penalty box and took a long lead pass from Darius Kasparaitis before beating Belfour on a breakaway at 7:24 to make it 3-2. Sykora closed the scoring in the period, when New York held a 15-5 shots advantage, with a five-on-three power-play goal at 11:56.
The Rangers got the two-man advantage when Toronto took simultaneous penalties. One was called against McCabe, who was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct when an official he couldn't identify thought he fired the puck his way.
"If I wanted to shoot the puck at him, I would've shot the puck at him,'' an agitated McCabe said. "Bottom line is we have to stay out of the box and capitalize on our power play.''
New York was 3-for-7 with the advantage and held Toronto's third-ranked unit off the board in four tries.
"They are going to come out harder (Saturday). I'm sure of it,'' Rangers coach Tom Renney said of the Leafs. "They could've won tonight. The difference was our specialty teams.''
The Madison Square Garden fans, who expected a rebuilding season, gave the Rangers a standing ovation midway through the final period after they killed off consecutive overlapping penalties. They even took to singing New York's victory song in the closing minutes.
"That's the best version of 'Sweet Caroline' I've ever heard in a hockey rink,'' Renney said.
Notes: Kilger has given Toronto a 1-0 lead three times in eight games. ... Jagr, with 1,395 points, is three behind Jari Kurri for second place among NHL players born in Europe. ... Olympic champion figure skater Sarah Hughes was in attendance as was Canadian actor Mike Myers, a Maple Leafs fan. ... New York is 27-6-4 when scoring a power-play goal.