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Rangers 6, Flyers 1 @NHLdotcom

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Jaromir Jagr might have finished the game instead of resting his sore groin had the score been closer.

With Jagr leading a dominating night for the New York Rangers on the power play, there was no need to risk further injury.

Jagr scored his NHL-leading 41st and 42nd goals and also had an assist to lead the Rangers to their seventh straight victory, 6-1 over Philadelphia on Thursday night.

The Atlantic Division-leading Rangers have a four-point lead over the second-place Flyers. Kevin Weekes made 36 saves for New York, which last won seven straight early in the 1993-94 season en route to its last Stanley Cup title. The Rangers are first in their division this late in the season for the first time since 1995-96.

"We're fighting for first place in our division, so it's huge," Jagr said.

The Rangers, 3-0-2 against Philadelphia this season, didn't need a lot of shots to beat the Flyers. They scored three goals - two on the power play - in a 1:58 span early in the second period and had four goals in a 6:46 span. They scored four goals on six-power play opportunities while the Flyers went 1-for-9.

Jagr, the NHL leader with 91 points, injured his groin in the second period of the bronze-medal game in the Olympics and was hit there again in the third period. He decided to rest after that with the Rangers comfortably ahead.

"It bothered me a little bit. I didn't want to make it worse," he said. "It's not bad. Hopefully Monday it can get better."

Jagr scored two power-play goals to open the second period and give the Rangers a 3-0 lead. Jagr's second goal gave him 1,400 career points.

"I got lucky, I scored," Jagr said, laughing. "What do you want me to say?"

Jagr's second goal also knocked out Flyers goalie Robert Esche, who allowed three goals on only seven shots. Coach Ken Hitchcock put in rookie Antero Niittymaki, the tournament MVP of the Olympics after he led Finland to the silver medal. Hitchcock has tried to defuse the situation between his two Olympic goalies by calling the starting job a competition, not a controversy.

"I never like being pulled out," Esche said. "It was the right decision. I know it's part of the game. You want to be there when things are great and when things are bad, I want to battle it out."

While the Flyers could truly have a controversy now, Niittymaki didn't immediately help his case when only 27 seconds in he allowed Blair Betts' fifth goal and the Rangers' third in the 1:58 span.

Fred Meyer punched his fist in the air and got a rise out of the crowd when his fifth goal of the season on the power play made it 4-1. Only 22 seconds later, though, Jason Ward had a clean look in front of Niittymaki and scored his 10th goal to make it 5-1. The Rangers only had 11 shots on goal at that point and both Ward and Betts had open shots at the net.

The Flyers have lost six of their last eight.

"Obviously, right now we're a fragile team," Derian Hatcher said. "I don't think there are any questions about it."

The lopsided shot total started from the first faceoff, but the Flyers were unable to capitalize against Weekes. They went scoreless in the first, even with three power plays and a 13-1 shot advantage midway through the period.

"When you're in the game and in the flow of the game, you're not as conscious of that," Weekes said. "They have an excellent lineup and they play well offensively."

The Rangers went ahead 1-0 late in the first when Jagr set up Michael Nylander for a power-play goal on only New York's third shot of the game.

"We just need to get our timing back," Jagr said.

Martin Rucinsky scored near the end of the game for the Rangers, who seem poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They won their sixth straight road game and fourth straight in Philadelphia.

Notes: The Flyers honored C Peter Forsberg and Niittymaki for winning medals at the Olympics. ... Betts returned after missing 16 games with a knee injury and scored his first goal since Nov. 24. ... The Flyers' Donald Brashear was called for five penalties with 1:52 left when he attempted to fight Darius Kasparaitis, who did not throw any punches. Brashear received a 10-minute misconduct, game misconduct, fighting major and minors for hooking and instigating. He finished the game with 35 penalty minutes and also got an automatic one-game suspension. "You can't do anything anymore," Brashear said. "Sometimes you can't touch the guy. They changed the rules to favor the superstars."

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