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Shanahan rips refs on Jagr's behalf; Rangers captain remains soft-spoken

Brendan Shanahan rallied to his teammate's defence Wednesday night after the New York Rangers' 2-1 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Shanahan, in his first season on Broadway, has grown tired of seeing the stuff opponents get away with while trying to slow the high-scoring Rangers captain. He wondered why there appears to be a bias against Jagr, while other NHL superstars draw power plays when they are hooked and held up.

"Well, it's been for 15 years. It's already behind me," Jagr said with a slight laugh after practice Thursday. "I've got two years left, or whatever, in my hockey career. I'm not going to worry now."

The Rangers scored their only goal Wednesday on the second of just two power plays. Toronto, which scored once in six man-advantage opportunities, was whistled for three penalties overall. One was for too many men on the ice and another was for high-sticking.

The latter didn't result in a New York power play because the Rangers were called for roughing at the same time.

"What do you want me to do? I don't call the penalties," Jagr said. "I don't know what's going on behind me. If somebody is holding you, you don't turn and see it, you just play the game.

"You're focused on making plays and scoring goals."

Jagr did plenty of that last season when he scored a Rangers-record 54 goals and set the team mark with 123 points. He finished second in NHL MVP voting to San Jose's Joe Thornton.

Shanahan holds the Rangers lead this season with 26 goals. Jagr's production is down, so far, largely due to his ongoing recovery from major shoulder surgery in the off-season.

Still, he has 19 goals while playing in all 51 games, and entered Thursday tied for 10th in the NHL with 62 points. The key reason he wasn't in Dallas for last week's all-star game was the Rangers asked that Jagr not be picked so he could rest.

"I don't know what the deal is," Shanahan said Wednesday. "Guys hit him late, guys hit him high, guys hook his hands. He doesn't complain. He just goes out and plays and plays and plays. The referees just seem to have a different set of rules about the way people get to play against him.

"Not since (Slava) Fetisov came over from Russia have I ever seen a star player get ignored by the referees, and I know the reason why they were ignoring him back then."

Jagr appreciated the support.

"It's great and it would be even better if it would make a difference," he said, "but I don't think so.

"You've got 10 guys, to see every hook and every hold . . . if they called everything the way they are supposed to, it would 3-on-3 all game long."

Shanahan didn't back down from his remarks the day after, but didn't want to pile on, either. A fine likely will be handed down by the NHL, something that didn't concern the 38-year-old forward.

"I'm not going to make a one-day story into a two-or three-day story," he said. "I still believe what I said and I don't feel I need to say it again."

The NHL respected Shanahan's right to criticize but didn't agree with his complaints.

"I didn't think the game was called any different than games are called every night," Mike Murphy, the NHL's senior vice-president of hockey operations told The Associated Press. "Jagr is a player that does get identified by the other team.

"They know Jagr is a key performer on the Rangers, but teams are allowed to play against him in a legal fashion."

Shanahan has backed up Jagr several times already. None was more evident than the fight he picked with Washington's Donald Brashear - one of the league's noted tough guys, who took liberties during a December game at Madison Square Garden.

"It galvanizes your group," coach Tom Renney said. "Shanny fought out of respect for his teammate and he did it in another sort of way last night. I like that about our team.

"We're growing into something that demonstrates solidarity."

That will be crucial if the Rangers are to return to the playoffs. The loss to Toronto left them in 10th place in the Eastern Conference heading into Saturday's game at Tampa Bay.

"Shanny spoke his mind and dealt with things the way he felt he needed to as an assistant captain. I spoke to the level I needed to as a coach and that's it. It's over," Renney said. "It's not going to help us win games yapping about the referees and complaining."


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