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Jagr, Rangers still alive; record night for Franzen

by John Kreiser

Jaromir Jagr scored two goals last night to help the Rangers defeat Pittsburgh 3-0 and keep their playoff series alive at 3-1. VIDEO
A few thoughts as we contemplate the record-setting performance of Detroit’s Johan Franzen against the Colorado Avalanche:

Jagr-meisterJaromir Jagr isn’t ready for his summer vacation just yet. The New York Rangers’ captain made sure his team’s season would last at least one more game by scoring twice and setting up another goal in Thursday night’s 3-0 win against Pittsburgh in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

"We got one more game and that was our goal," Jagr said. "We have a chance at one more game; it's up to us how we are going to handle the next game. We know we're in a tough situation. Nobody wanted to be down 3-0. We know the fans want us to do well, and we thank them for their patience."

Jagr has been the Rangers’ best player in the series against Pittsburgh. He has seven points in the four games — meaning he’s been involved in 70 percent of his team’s goals. He now leads all scorers in this year’s playoffs with 15 points.

"He is a driven man right now, there is no question about that," said Rangers coach Tom Renney. "Certainly for all the right reasons he wants this team to get back in the series. In terms of us being competitive with these people he has led the charge."     
Heading home – New York may be a nice place to visit, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have no intention of coming back next week.

The Penguins missed their first chance to avoid a return to the Big Apple next Monday when they lost 3-0 to the Rangers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. They can wrap up a trip to the conference final with a win at home Sunday afternoon. If they lose, it’s back to New York on Monday night — a trip the Penguins aren’t interested in making.

"We have to learn from our mistakes and we have to be strong in our building. It won't be easy, but we don't want to come back here." - Penguins forward Marian Hossa
"We have to learn from our mistakes and we have to be strong in our building," forward Marian Hossa said. "It won't be easy, but we don't want to come back here."

With good reason: The Penguins have lost five of six visits to Madison Square Garden this season. But the odds of advancing remain in their favor – only two teams have won a series after being down 3-0. But the Rangers are convinced they can be the third – and that means the Penguins will have to work harder.

"You have to try to do your best to match their desperation level," Sidney Crosby said. "Urgency has to be a little more there. We probably have to bring it up a little bit more."
Mule’s team – Detroit’s “Mule” kicked his way into the record books, and booted the Colorado Avalanche out of the Playoffs.

Johan Franzen, aka “Mule,” scored three more goals Thursday night to power the Red Wings to an 8-2 victory that completed a sweep of the Colorado Avalanche.

It was Franzen’s second three-goal performance against the Avs and gave him nine in the series. That’s the most by any player in a four-game series in NHL history, and the most by a Wing in a series of any length, beating the mark set by Gordie Howe, who had eight in Detroit’s seven-game semifinal win against Montreal in 1949.

Red Wings center Johan Franzen celebrates his hat trick goal as Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj slumps in the net during the second period in Game 4 last night. Franzen scores a hat trick
''I didn't follow the game back then,'' Franzen joked when asked about breaking another of Howe’s marks. He had broken Mr. Hockey’s team record for game-winning goals in a month when he got six in March, one more than Howe had in 1952.

Franzen’s 11 goals are the most in this year’s playoffs — incredible when you consider that he doesn’t even play on the Wings’ top line. His nine goals in the series were as many as the entire Avalanche team scored.

''He's been great,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He's a big, big man with lots of skill. We're lucky to have him. He's been big now for a long time. He broke Gordie's record in March, and then he broke his record here today. So good for him. If you're going to break records, you might as well break Gordie Howe's.''

Franzen needed just 10 playoff games to score 11 goals and break the Red Wings' record for most goals in one playoff year, a mark held by three players – including Brett Hull, who needed 23 games to do it in 2002.

And he has at least one more series to go. How many can he get?

''I don't expect to score that much the rest of the playoffs,'' Franzen said. ''I only hope I can contribute something offensively.''
Going, going, gone? – Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg said he didn’t feel bad for beating Colorado 8-2 on Thursday night because, “I know they’ll come back at us next year.”

But some of the faces may not be the same.

Captain Joe Sakic, who missed 38 games this season at age 38 after surgery to repair a sports hernia, said again that he'll wait until the summer to decide if he'll return for a 20th NHL season. “Right now, I’m going to take some time and reflect,” he said when asked about his plays for 2008-09.

Another missing face could be Peter Forsberg, who sat out again in Game 4 and said after the game an MRI on Wednesday revealed tears in both groins. Forsberg, 34, ended up playing 16 games, including seven in the playoffs, after re-signing with the Avs on Feb. 25, with the understanding he'd play when his chronically bad ankle allowed.
Forsberg said he wants to return to Colorado next season – health permitting. Otherwise, it’s time to retire,

''Just too many injuries,'' Forsberg said. ''If it doesn't get solved, that would be it, but we'll see what happens.''

Around the Worlds – Perhaps no team faces as much pressure to win as Team Canada, which opens its quest for gold Friday when the World Championships get under way. Not only are the Canadians expected to win, they face the challenge of pleasing the home fans in Quebec and Halifax – the Nova Scotia city hosts their opener against Slovenia.

Canadian coach Ken Hitchcock is trying to keep his team humble – especially against a team that includes just one NHL player – Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.

"The humble approach means don't just expect that you're going to have success because you're sitting at home," he said. "Don't rely on the people in the stands to motivate you. We've got to do it ourselves.

"It's always been us against the world when you go to Europe. This is different; we've got people pulling for us, but don't expect them to do the playing. We've got to do the heavy lifting."

Playing at home – a first for Canada at the Worlds – has been a treat, even with all the pressure to win. The Canadian players genuinely seem to have enjoyed all the positive attention they've received so far in Halifax.

"You can tell the city's really embraced us and I think we're trying to embrace the city," Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza said. "We really want to enjoy ourselves here."

The more they win, the more they’ll enjoy themselves.

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