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Jagr says Penguins need new answers



Published: Sun, May 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Jaromir Jagr, who may be traded this summer, said Pittsburgh needs a new direction to avoid being eliminated by the Devils.

By TOM WILLIAMS

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

PITTSBURGH -- If Saturday's Game 4 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals were Jaromir Jagr's final home game at Mellon Arena, he said he wasn't thinking about it.

"It wasn't on my mind at all -- I wanted to win the game," the Penguins captain and NHL's regular season scoring leader said.

After 11 seasons in Pittsburgh, Jagr may be traded this summer because the Penguins will have trouble affording his $10 million salary and keeping their many restricted free agents.

Trailing 3 games to 1 in the series and on the brink of elimination, Jagr said the Penguins had better to look to something other than the past two games when they were out-scored at home 8-0 and limited to 41 shots on New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur.

"You cannot look at these games [for inspiration], that's for sure," Jagr said. "There's nothing positive there. We just got smoked, we just got killed. It looked like nobody was able to do anything."

Early success: Actually, the Penguins had one sequence where things went their way early in the game.

The Devils, the NHL's defending champions peppered Pittsburgh's rookie goalie, Johan Hedberg, with nine shots in the first six minutes.

Hedberg was equal to the test and particularly brilliant when New Jersey's seventh, eighth and ninth shots came within 10 seconds of each other.

In rapid succession, Hedberg, the 28-year-old goalie who was traded to the Penguins on March 12, stonewalled shots by Scott Stevens, Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora to keep the game scoreless.

Only highlight: But that was the only highlight for Pittsburgh in its second straight shutout loss.

"Although we are down 3-1 to a great team, we've got to show up on Tuesday and try to win the game," Penguins owner Mario Lemieux said, "and whoever doesn't believe we can win the game shouldn't make the trip.

"[We've] got to keep working to the end, although it's tough to play a team like that. It's frustrating. They are an amazing team.

"At times, they make you look pretty bad, but you've got to have some pride in the team you are playing for," Lemieux said after being limited to one shot.

That said, Lemieux added he feels "everybody is trying, obviously, and there's just no room [on the ice]. The more you skate, it seems like the more you fall into the trap."

Handled everything: After surrendering three goals to the Penguins in 61/2 minutes during the Devils' 4-2 loss in Game 2, Brodeur has handled everything the past two games.

One more shutout in this postseason and Brodeur will break Frank McCool's NHL postseason record for shutouts (five).

"For me, it's not a goal," the 29-year-old net-minder from Montreal said. "If it happens, great, but winning the game, that's what the playoffs are about.

"These guys are playing real hard in front of me, blocking shots and making sure their guys are not getting in wide open," Brodeur said.

Opportunities: "[The Penguins] had a lot of chances on the power-play, but we killed them really well. I think that makes a big difference. I think we discouraged them a lot to shoot the puck and that makes my job easier."

Because the Devils have excelled since their second-period collapse in Game 2, Coach Larry Robinson was asked if that sequence was a blessing in disguise.

"No, because this [series] could be over right now," Robinson said. "I never like to look back on poor performances and say they are learning experiences. I think that we have enough guys who have been around that we shouldn't need learning experiences."




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