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Jagr, Czechs end USA run at Worlds

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Discuss it on Blueshirts United

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Rangers forward Derek Stepan, defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and prospect Chris Kreider saw their stay at the 2011 IIHF World Championship come to an end on Wednesday, as Team USA fell to the Czech Republic 4-0 in the tournament's quarterfinals at Orange Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The Americans, who finished the tournament with a 3-3-1 record, played a strong game against the defending gold-medalist Czechs but ran into a vintage performance by former Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr.

Rangers forward Derek Stepan watches the Czechs celebrate their 4-0 victory after time ran out in Wednesday's quarterfinal game at Bratislava, Slovakia. Stepan, the No. 1 center for Team USA, led the Americans with eight points in seven games.
The 39-year-old Jagr, who holds Blueshirts records for goals (54) and points (123) in one season, recorded a hat trick on Wednesday -- scoring goals in all three periods. Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens notched the other Czech goal.

The Czechs, who have nine NHL players and several more former NHLers on their roster, are now a perfect 7-0-0 heading into the semifinal round. Dating back to last year, the Czech Republic has 12 straight wins at the World Championshp tourney.

Wednesday's U.S. loss also ended a six-game points streak for Stepan, who had cracked the scoring sheet in all of Team USA's preliminary-round and quarterfinal-round games.

Stepan, who had two goals and six assists in his first six games, saw 18:43 of ice time on Wednesday, but did not register a shot on goal. Kreider, playing on the third line with Yan Stastny and Tim Stapleton, also did not have a shot in 12:03. McDonagh, who was relied on heavily in penalty-killing situations, played 18:55 to lead the three Rangers represenatives.

The Czechs outshot Team USA 39-29 as Atlanta Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec earned a shutout with 29 saves.

Team USA came out hard and really took the play to the Czechs in the opening period, which saw shots on goal even at 12-12. The Czech Republic, however, got the period's only goal when Jagr took full advantage of a rare U.S. mistake to make it 1-0 after 20 minutes.

After killing off an interference penalty to Paul Gaustad, the Americans got their first power-play opportunity at 10:12 of the first period, when Lukas Krajicek went off for the Czech Republic. Roughly halfway through the power play, Stepan made a perfect pass to former University of Wisconsin teammate Craig Smith from behind the net, but Smith was robbed by Pavelec on one of Team USA's best scoring chances of the game.

Jagr, who has spent the past four seasons in the KHL after his final year with the Rangers in 2007-08, got the game's first goal at 18:45 of the first period, capitalizing on a U.S. turnover to transition it into a goal. Taking a pass in the neutral zone, Jagr sped down the right wing into the USA zone and fired a hard wrister that trickled through U.S. goalie Ty Conklin's pads and over the goal line for the 1-0 lead.

Rangers prospect Chris Kreider, the team's 2009 first-round draft pick, skates across center ice against the Czechs on Wednesday afternoon at Bratislava.
Stepan saw 6:20 of ice time in the first period, while Kreider played 3:24, and McDonagh was on the ice for 5:14 that included the Jagr goal.

Team USA opened the second period on a power play, capitalizing on late first-period pressure to draw a high-sticking call against Petr Caslava as time expired in the first.

That man-advantage turned into a 5-on-3 with 12 seconds left in the penalty when former Rangers defenseman Karel Rachunek went off for slashing. That penalty was eventually negated when Blake Wheeler was called for slashing during a shorthanded 2-on-1 for the Czechs at 3:01.

Team USA took another penalty for elbowing at 3:20, setting up a 4-on-3 for the Czechs which was followed by a 5-on-3, and the Czechs cashed in with another Jagr goal.

Jagr made it 2-0 with a one-timer from the right faceoff circle, taking a pass from Plekanec at the left point and burying it at 4:43 after it deflected off the stick of Mike Komisarek and just over Conklin's glove.

Jagr's goal was the lone tally in the second period, and the Czechs took a 2-0 lead into the third.

Stepan skated an additional 5:57 in the second period. Kreider's second-period ice time went up to 3:43, while McDonagh surged to 7:41 in the second, due largely to his increased time on the penalty kill.

Through two periods, the Czechs were outshooting Team USA 25-23.

Stepan had a scoring chance in front of the net midway through the third period when he took a pass from Kevin Shattenkirk, but he was quickly tied up by Jagr and unable to get a strong shot off at Pavelec.

Shortly after that opportunity, Plekanec all but put the game out of reach at 3-0 when he blasted a shot past Conklin at 10:33. The goal developed off a 2-on-1 with Michal Frolik after the Czech duo were sprung with a long pass from Marek Zidlicky.

Later in the third, the Czechs suffered a potential setback for their overall tournament hopes when forward Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils was hurt on a hit from Jack Johnson during a power play behind the U.S. net. Elias, who was caught off guard by Johnson as he came around the net, skated off under his own power, but appeared to suffer a head injury on the play.

Jagr completed his hat trick at 16:25 of the third period, scoring off a give-and-go as he crashed the net on a power play. Stationed in the right circle, Jagr fed a pretty backhand to Plekanec behind the goal line and then went to the net for Plekanec's return pass, which he fired past Conklin for the 4-0 lead.
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