Rangers 5, Islanders 1
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP)—Jaromir Jagr broke New York’s single-season points record—and gave the Rangers a little cushion in the Atlantic Division race.
Jagr assisted on four straight goals in a 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night to pass Hall of Famer Jean Ratelle on the team scoring list and help the Rangers move four points ahead of second-place Philadelphia.
“It’s a big honor for me,” Jagr said. “I’m glad I did it in the first period. … We need the points. We want to stay in first in the division.”
Despite his reemergence as one of the league’s elite scorers, Jagr plans to retire when his contract expires in two years.
“I’ll be 36. I’m going back to Europe,” the New York Times reported Wednesday.
Drawing chants of “MVP! MVP!” from the many Rangers fans at Nassau Coliseum, Jagr broke the tie with Ratelle at 7:23 of the first period, setting up Petr Prucha’s power-play goal for point No. 110. Jagr also assisted on Martin Straka’s three goals.
“We had a lot of chances,” Jagr said. “Sometimes it might look easy like tonight and other times it’s really tough. That’s just hockey.”
Jagr, trying to hold off Joe Thornton for his sixth NHL scoring title, is the clear favorite to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player, an award he won in 1998-99 with Pittsburgh. Jagr has 113 points in 73 games, seven more than Thornton has in 70 games for Boston and San Jose.
“Without question, he’s the MVP,” Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro said. “Every time he gets the puck on his stick, he makes a good play. He’s tough to defend.
“Them getting in the playoffs is great for hockey. I think the new rules have helped them out considerably. They’re a tough team to play against.”
Jagr also has an NHL-leading 52 goals, tied with Adam Graves for the team record. The 34-year-old Czech star had a chance to break that tie on a breakaway midway through the third period, but DiPietro stopped him with a pad save.
“It wasn’t a good shot,” Jagr said. “I thought someone was coming up behind me and rushed it. I’d like to have that one back.”
Ratelle had 109 points in 1971-72, and Graves set the goal record in 1993-94.
Henrik Lundqvist also broke the Rangers’ record for victories by a rookie, making 18 saves for his 30th win. The Swedish Olympic goalie improved to 30-10-9 to break a tie with Jim Henry (1941-42) and Johnny Bower (1953-54).
“It’s a big number for me, especially in my first season,” Lundqvist said. “The whole team played a great game.”
Prucha’s goal, the rookie’s 29th, opened the scoring at 7:23 of the first period. Straka scored at 8:53 and 13:59 of the first period and completed his hat trick at 12:14 of the second with his 18th goal of the season.
The Rangers, coming off a 5-4 shootout victory over Buffalo on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, will face Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa on Thursday night as they close in on their first playoff spot since 1997.
The Rangers and Flyers are fighting for the Atlantic title, with the winner in position to get the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and the loser expected to open against Buffalo in the 4-5 series.
DiPietro, also in goal Tuesday night in a 2-0 loss in Montreal, made 17 saves. The Islanders have lost six of their last eight games.
Jagr is 16th on the NHL’s career goals list with 589, 22nd in assists with 833 and 14th in points with 1,422 in 1,100 games with Pittsburgh, Washington and New York. In 73 career games against the Islanders, he has 51 goals and 71 assists for 122 points.
“He’s a special hockey player,” Islanders interim coach Brad Shaw said. “Early in his career, he looked like this. I don’t know what happened in a few of his middle years, but certainly this year, he’s found the love of the game again. We stood around and watched him make a lot of plays. We gave him too much respect and too much room.”
The games was the sixth of eight games between the team this season. The Rangers have won the last four—the last three at the Coliseum—after losing the first two. … Jagr extended his points streak to 10 games. He has nine goals and 12 assists during the run. … The Rangers’ Colton Orr and the Islanders’ Eric Godard fought in the first period, moments after Godard and Petteri Nokelainen hammered Darius Kasparaitis into the end boards with simultaneous checks. Orr also fought John Erskine in the second. … The Islanders activated Nokelainen from injured reserve. The 20-year-old Finn, selected 16th overall in the 2004 draft, missed 58 games because of patella tendinitis in his right knee. The Islanders sent center Jeremy Colliton and defenseman Rob Collins to Bridgeport of the AHL.