Too much to ask?
Pens' Jagr hopes for another miracle against Devils
Posted: Tuesday May 04, 1999 12:27 PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Limping onto the ice and breathing life into the bankrupt Pittsburgh Penguins for a couple of extra days enhanced Jaromir Jagr's new status as the NHL torchbearer successor to Wayne Gretzky.
Leading the Penguins to a first-round upset of New Jersey in the Eastern Conference playoffs is going to be a lot tougher.
"If we play our best and they play their best, I think we'd win," said Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko, one of a number of New Jersey players who expressed confidence heading into the Tuesday's deciding Game 7 at the Continental Airlines Arena.
"I feel we're the better team," Daneyko added. "They've got some individuals who have better individual skills that can win a game for them, but overall as a team we're better."
For the most part, that was the case Sunday as the Devils tried to clinch the series in Game 6 at Pittsburgh. They dominated play for long stretches -- until a sub-par Jagr took over late in the game.
The NHL's leading scorer, who had missed the previous four games with a groin injury, tied the game late in the third period and then won it in overtime with his first goals since he spoiled the end of Gretzky's going-away party two weeks ago.
After skating lightly for about 15 minutes on Monday, Jagr said that he felt surprisingly good for someone who had played almost 30 minutes the night before.
"I'm glad [the Devils] are so confident," Jagr said when told the New Jersey players believed they could win Game 7. "I'm not going to tell you we're going to win Game 7 ... but I'm very confident in our team. And I can promise you one thing. We're going to go there and play our best. That's what we can give you, but I don't know if that's going to be enough."
Both teams come into Game 7 somewhat at a crossroads.
The Penguins are not only fighting elimination, but also extinction. Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux is trying to win control of the franchise in ongoing bankruptcy court hearings, but there is a chance the team may be moved if a new owner cannot be found.
The Devils, who won the Stanley Cup in 1995, have been the best regular-season team in the Eastern Conference the past three seasons, but one of its worst in the playoffs. They were ousted in the second round two years ago by the New York Rangers and then stunned in the first round last year by Ottawa.
"The first round would be a big step, and that's what we have to accomplish tomorrow," Devils captain Scott Stevens said Monday. "There is no question about that. It's getting frustrating. Game 7 will be the big crunch for a lot of us. I think it's a monumental game."
Game 7 will also determine what happens in the second round of the playoffs. If the Devils win, they will go against Buffalo and Dominik Hasek. Toronto would play Boston.
If the Penguins win, Toronto will play Pittsburgh and Boston will play Buffalo.
"We came into this playoff [series] as a big-time underdog, and we're playing the best team in our conference," Jagr said. "Now it's tied 3-3 and whoever wins goes to the second round. So, it's very exciting for everybody, and for the hockey players. That's what we play for."
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