Jagr outshines Malkin in keeping Rangers alive

| Friday, May 2, 2008


The Penguins, so reluctant to change their lineup heading into Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Rangers, did so out of necessity prior to Game 4.

Center Max Talbot was down and out, which produced an opportunity for Gary Roberts, but not a second of regret on Talbot's part regarding the circumstances of his departure.

"I'm proud of my stitches in my face," he said prior to Game 4. "I'm proud of my broken foot right now.

"I feel pretty lucky to play on a team that's going to battle."

The battle raged on without Mad Max on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

If Talbot symbolized the Penguins' fighting spirit, Roberts personified it.

"We're losing one warrior," coach Michel Therrien said. "We're bringing one back."

So, there was no apologizing on the Penguins' part for what they had to work with in search of a sweep.

The Rangers were down a couple such players, as well, (Sean Avery and Blair Betts). And they played with Chris Drury in uniform but at much less than 100 percent.

There was no apologizing on their part, either.

Playoff hockey often becomes a war of attrition, and with both sides hurting, Game 4 came down to which side's stars would shine brightest.

Along those lines, Jaromir Jagr finally got the best of Evgeni Malkin, and the Rangers staved off elimination, 3-0.

Jagr scored two goals and assisted on the other.

Malkin was denied on a penalty shot.


The Penguins' best chance to get back into it was easily batted away by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with 2:07 left in the second period.

No wonder Therrien doesn't often turn to Malkin in shootouts.

Malkin had failed on a previous charge to the net early in the second period, accepting a pass from Pascal Dupuis and trying a backhand-to-forehand move that wound up stuffing the puck into the side of Lundqvist's cage.

Moments after the penalty shot, Malkin sought a more traditional drive to the net but wound up hitting the deck when he was unable to navigate the space between defensemen Marc Staal and Michal Rozsival.

This just wasn't Malkin's night.

Jagr hit the deck hard, too, and stayed there after a punishing check from Brooks Orpik that was delivered a moment after Jagr unleashed the shot that opened the scoring at 12:45 of the second period.

Jagr had first showed the puck to defenseman Sergei Gonchar and then pulled it back, waiting until the last possible second before firing.

Jagr has paid the price the last two games.

"That's the hardest I've seen him play in a while," Orpik said.

"Next time, I should block it, maybe," Gonchar said.

Jagr resurrecting his game has kept the Rangers alive.

Malkin's uncharacteristic miseries, meanwhile, took something out of the Penguins.

They eventually reunited him with Sidney Crosby in a desperate attempt to generate some offense, only to find the two sitting side by side in the penalty box with six-and-a-half minutes remaining.

And by game's end, Malkin was slew-footing Rangers defenseman Paul Mara in an obvious fit of frustration.

As it turns out, even Malkin and Crosby can't win them all.

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