NEW YORK – Jaromir Jagr was flat on his stomach after scoring and cheers echoed through Madison Square Garden in what might have been his last home game with the New York Rangers.
New York staved off elimination, in what it hopes was the start of a monumental comeback, by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night. The building was in a frenzy after Jagr’s second-period goal broke a scoreless tie. He added an empty-netter, and Henrik Lundqvist did the rest with a perfect 29-save performance.
Jagr whipped a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury from the slot and then absorbed a high, heavy hit from Brooks Orpik that flattened the Rangers captain. He was assisted to the bench after a few anxious moments on the ice, but took his next shift as appreciative fans chanted his name.
The Penguins, who lost for the first time in eight playoff games this year, still lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal 3-1. They will try again to finish off the Rangers in Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Only two NHL teams have come back to win after trailing 3-0, and none have done it since the 1975 New York Islanders against Pittsburgh.
Lundqvist, who allowed five goals to Pittsburgh in two of the first three games of the series, was on top of his game – his best moments coming against MVP finalist Evgeni Malkin. The second-year Penguins forward was denied by Lundqvist’s right skate at the post in the first period and then on a penalty shot in the second.
His name was chanted as the final moments ticked down, interrupted only when Jagr scored with 13.6 seconds left.
Jagr, who can become a free agent after the season, said after New York’s 5-3 loss on Tuesday that he had a feeling this Rangers team could do something special. His goal and assist on Brandon Dubinsky’s third-period, power-play tally was a good start.
The injury-plagued Rangers beat the Penguins at home for the fifth time in six games this season despite missing agitating-artist Sean Avery, hospitalized in intensive care since lacerating his spleen in New York’s Game 3 loss on Tuesday.
New York centre Blair Betts missed the game after fracturing an orbital bone while blocking a shot on Tuesday. He is sidelined indefinitely and is scheduled to undergo surgery this weekend.
Fellow centre Chris Drury shook off an injury to his torso and was in the lineup.
Lundqvist showed the form that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist for the third straight season. Besides frustrating Malkin several times, he even absorbed a crash with the hulking Russian that led to the penalty shot.
Malkin was chased on a breakaway by defenceman Dan Girardi, who sprinted without a stick. In desperation, Girardi gave Malkin a two-handed shove in the back – driving him and the puck into Lundqvist and the net.
A penalty shot was awarded, but a lengthy video review ensued first to see if the puck crossed the line before the net was knocked off its moorings. It didn’t.
Malkin then made his attempt, skating slowly down the middle as Lundqvist held his ground. With little room left, he snapped a rising shot that Lundqvist calmly deflected away with his glove.
Dubinsky doubled New York’s lead 44 seconds into the third period with the Rangers’ second power-play goal in 18 chances this series.
An even better sight for the Rangers came with 6:28 left when Malkin and Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh’s top two scorers in the regular season and playoffs – both went off for roughing.
Notes: No team has started 8-0 in the playoffs since the 1985 Edmonton Oilers. … Penguins LW Gary Roberts played for the first time in the series, replacing Maxime Talbot, who is out with a foot injury. … Pittsburgh is 5-4 in Game 4 when leading a series 3-0. … Fleury made 31 saves.