Jagr plays at Madison Square Garden in a Rangers uniform for the first time as his team tries to bounce back from an embarrassing loss in a matchup with the Florida Panthers.
The debut of Jagr did nothing to help New York out of its slump or boost the job security of coach Glen Sather. One day after being acquired from Washington in a long-rumored deal, Jagr had no points and only one shot on goal in 19:50 of ice time as the Rangers were routed 9-1 at Ottawa on Saturday.
It was the team’s most lopsided defeat since a 10-2 loss at Quebec on March 6, 1993.
“It wasn’t the start I was looking for, that’s for sure,” said Jagr, who threw his linemates offside on his first two offensive rushes.
“It’s not nice to lose 9-1 in your first game, but hopefully the worst is behind me and this team, and we somehow learn from this loss and turn things around.”
The Rangers have lost four in a row and are winless in their last six (0-4-2)—both season highs.
If the team struggles again in this game, the embattled Sather certainly will hear about it from the Garden crowd, which chanted ‘Fire Sather’ in home losses last week to Boston and Philadelphia. It might not take long for the home crowd to shower Sather with more jeers after the team was humiliated on Saturday.
“It’s one of the worst beatings I’ve taken in my career,” Sather said. “It seemed like everyone stood around and was waiting for Jagr to win it for us.”
Having Jagr in the lineup can’t help the Rangers’ troubled goaltending situation.
Starter Mike Dunham sat out Saturday due to a concussion, though he’s 0-3-2 with a 3.52 goals-against average in his last five starts. His status for this game is uncertain.
Roberto Luongo has provided Florida with outstanding goaltending in the team’s last two games. He’s stopped 71 of 73 shots in victories over Washington and Boston.
Luongo, named to the All-Star team on Thursday, wasn’t sure he’d play Saturday until shortly before game time, but came through with 43 saves in a 2-1 win at Boston.
“Right at the last minute I thought `I think Roberto’s going to have a good one here,”’ Florida coach Rick Dudley said. “I don’t know why, I just did.”
The Panthers are looking to win three in a row for the first time this season.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 24): Panthers - 47 points, 3rd place, 8 PB, Southeast Division. Rangers - 47 points, 4th place, 16 PB, Atlantic Division.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 24): Panthers - Power play: 18.2 percent (33 for 181), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (176 for 213), 22nd. Rangers - Power play: 14.6 percent (28 for 192), 9th. Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (200 for 245), 26th.
GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (15-20-9, 3 SO, 2.38 GAA); Steve Shields (2-3-1, 0, 3.32). Rangers - Dunham (11-17-6, 1, 2.75); Markkanen (7-6-1, 2, 2.70).
SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 1-0-1.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 26; Tie, 3-3, OT. At Sunrise, Fla., Olli Jokinen scored twice but missed on a breakaway chance with 20 seconds left in overtime. New York had erased a 3-1 deficit in the second period on goals by Eric Lindros and Boris Mironov.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 7-11-5-1 on the road; Rangers - 9-8-3-4 at home.