Jagr, Mario brothers have Penguins within home game of ousting Rangers


NEW YORK -- Jaromir Jagr has a penchant for fast cars, and the swiftest wheels in the National Hockey League.

Jagr carried the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on his jet-propelled skates with two goals -- one on a penalty shot and the other with 5:33 left in the game -- while leading them to a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers last night at Madison Square Garden.

The Penguins' latest improbable victory gave them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Patrick Division finals, in which the Rangers have been portrayed as the villains for the Adam Graves slash that has left Mario Lemieux a broken-handed bystander.

Game 6 will be tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.

Jagr, 20, a second-year right winger, has some of Lemieux's physical characteristics. He is tall, with a long wing span and a shock of dark hair spilling from beneath his helmet. Last night, he did a pretty good imitation of Lemieux on the ice.

"He's got great offensive talent, and the most interesting thing about him is he's got a long way to go," said Pittsburgh goalie Tom Barrasso, who made 32 stops in his finest effort of the series.

Jagr single-handedly won the game with his second goal, with a move that will probably be shown again and again on highlight films.

The Czechoslovakian was at full stride when he took control of the puck at the Rangers' blue line. He feinted to the inside against Jeff Beukeboom before blowing around the defenseman as though he were a mannequin, and then beat goalie John Vanbiesbrouck.

"He's a world-class player, so what can you do?" Beukeboom said.

In the first period, after Rick Tocchet had given the Penguins a quick 1-0 lead on a power play, Jagr's speed led to a penalty shot.

He broke loose from a pack in the Penguins' end and was swooping in on Vanbiesbrouck when defenseman Brian Leetch, a stride behind, wrapped up Jagr and dragged him down.

Referee Terry Gregson signaled for the 26th penalty shot in the 75-year history of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And Jagr, who usually favors his backhand, easily lifted a forehand shot past Vanbiesbrouck for the 10th successful penalty shot in playoff history.

"If he got a shot off," said Leetch, who pulled down Jagr just as he pushed the puck into Vanbiesbrouck's pads, "I don't think a penalty shot should be called." However, Gregson didn't take a poll of the Rangers. He wasted no time in signaling for a stoppage in play.

"I wanted to wait him out," Vanbiesbrouck said of Jagr on the penalty shot. "I thought I was waiting him out and then he shot. I did what I would tell a young kid to do, let him make the first move. He did and he scored."

"I'll tell you what," Tocchet said. "It's amazing he was the fifth player taken in the draft. He's No. 1 anywhere."

Pittsburgh coach Scotty Bowman, who has relied heavily on Jagr because so many forwards are injured, added: "He's so strong, and he can shift both ways so well. We've been seeing it all year."

Jagr's second goal offset one by Mike Gartner at the outset of the third period, a goal that had pulled the Rangers into a 2-2 tie.

After Gartner's goal, the Rangers carried the play, firing several quality shots at Barrasso. This time, though, the erratic goalie refused to give in.

"We knew the Rangers would make a charge, but the best attribute the Penguins have is they remain on an even keel," Tocchet said. "We got timely goaltending and timely goals."

Tocchet, who missed seven playoff games with a separated right shoulder before returning Saturday for Pittsburgh's come-from-behind 5-4 victory in overtime, got his first goal of the postseason to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

Joe Kocur, a Rangers tough guy, appeared to try to goad Tocchet into a fight on the game's first shift by roughing the right winger against the boards.

Tocchet showed restraint and, while Kocur served his penalty, also showed him why it had not been the brightest move. The right winger made Kocur stew in the box by ramming in a nice feed from Ron Francis just 1:15 into the game, lowering the decibel level of the raucous crowd.

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