Sunday, November 13, 2005

Inside Blueshirts

Jagr Records Hat Trick In Win Over Ex-Team: Jaromir Jagr's 14th career hat trick helped the Rangers blowout his former team Pittsburgh 6-1 Saturday night. It was Jagr's second three goal game of the season with his first coming in a 5-4 loss to the Islanders on October 20. His 17 goals this season tie him with the Flyers' Simon Gagne for the league lead.

Entering Saturday against the team which selected him fifth overall in the 1990 Draft and helped win two Stanley Cups ('91 and '92) with, the Czech star had struggled against them in 13 previous games (three goals) since a trade to Washington four years ago. Booed throughout by The Mellon Arena crowd which once supported him, Jagr turned the tables on the Penguins, doubling his goal output by the end of the night.

The former Pittsburgh star still has special feelings for the franchise.

"It's been four years, but it is more special because we're playing a very good team tonight," he said to reporters afterwards. "It's not so much that it came against Pittsburgh, but it's more about how we're playing as a team."

After scoring two goals within a 15 second span to put his club up 3-0, Jagr waited until the final 1:36 of the game to complete it in style when he one-timed home a Petr Prucha pass for a five-on-three goal. It put an exclamation point on the Rangers' third straight road win. No doubt a banner night for Jagr.

Rucchin Scores Twice: In the win, Steve Rucchin scored twice to increase his goal total to five. With his team leading 3-1 in the third, the ex-Anaheim pivot scored a timely goal on the power play 1:46 in to put the Blueshirts back up three. Rucchin redirected a Tom Poti wrist shot past Jocelyn Thibault. He tallied his second of the night 9:01 later, beating Thibault with a wrister from the slot to make it 5-1.

In 16:13 of ice-time, the two-way center finished with a plus-one rating and won 13-of-25 draws.

Though he helped put the game away, Rucchin chose to focus on the clutch netminding of winning goalie Kevin Weekes and rookie Henrik Lundqvist.

"The biggest thing now for us is the goaltending - they've been giving us a chance to win every game," he said.

After starting the season slowly, Rucchin has six points (3-3-6) in the last five contests.

Nieminen Adds Two Helpers: Ville Nieminen picked up two assists Saturday night including a primary one on Rucchin's second of the night. In 13:11, he was plus-one with two shots, a hit and blocked shot.

Poti Adds Two Assists: Tom Poti notched two assists in the victory. It was the first two point game of the season for the defenseman and gave him three assists in his past two games.

In 16:32 of action, the Worcester Massachusetts native was plus-one with two shots and a blocked shot.

Ortmeyer Gets Second Of Season: Jed Ortmeyer notched his second goal of the season to open the scoring 2:15 into the first. During a four-on-four, he stole the puck from Sergei Gonchar and broke in on Thibault, putting home his own rebound for an unassisted goal. It was Ortmeyer's first tally in 13 games since scoring in a 5-1 win over Atlanta October 15.

For the season, the 27-year-old Omaha Nebraska native has two goals, two assists and a plus-four rating.

Ward Adds Assist: Jason Ward had a primary assist on Jagr's first goal of the game. During a key four-on-four situation, Ward broke in with Jagr two-on-one and fed Jagr for an easy tap-in into an open net. The ex-Hab has two goals and five assists for seven points on the season.

Kondratiev and Kasparaitis Contribute: Rookie Maxim Kondratiev and veteran Darius Kasparaitis assisted on Jagr's second goal of the night. Paired together, they finished plus-two with four blocked shots including three from Kasparaitis.

Prucha and Straka Tally Assists: Petr Prucha and Martin Straka combined to setup Jagr for his hat trick late in the game. Prucha picked up his first NHL assist while Straka added his 17th helper this season.

Weekes Wins Again: Kevin Weekes made 23 saves to backstop the Rangers to their 11th win of the season. Back in net after two consecutive starts from Lundqvist, the 30-year-old netminder was sharp, making several clutch stops down two men in the second to keep his team in front.

In his last four starts, Weekes is 3-1-0 with a 1.97 GAA and a .924 save percentage.

Blueshirts Travel To Toronto: Having won the first three on a season long five-game road trip, the Atlantic division-leading Blueshirts (11-5-3) head up north to face former Ranger Eric Lindros and the Maple Leafs (9-7-2) Tuesday (7:30 PM). They conclude the trip Thursday at Carolina.


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