Jagr, Penguins rally to beat Leafs, take 2-1 series lead
Posted: Wednesday May 12, 1999 01:47 AM
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins apparently are at their best in the most precarious of situations.
Jaromir Jagr scored the tying goal in the third period and Jiri Slegr got the game winner 1:40 later as the Penguins took the series lead by rallying to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 Tuesday night.
The Penguins trailed 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before Jagr, no longer visibly bothered by his lingering groin injury, scored his first goal in three games at 9:03 of the third and Slegr got his first playoff goal ever at 10:43. Jagr also had two assists.
With their future in Pittsburgh in doubt beyond this series or this season, the Penguins take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 Thursday at the Civic Arena.
"This is a team capable of coming back," coach Kevin Constantine said, pointing to the Penguins' 6-23-7 regular-season record when trailing after two periods. "We have the will to work hard and the skill to create."
The victory came only hours after NHL lawyers told a federal judge that an out-of-town buyer has stepped forward to move the bankrupt Penguins if former star Mario Lemieux isn't successful in his takeover bid.
With the Maple Leafs frantically trying to preserve their 3-2 lead, Jagr directed Rob Brown's pass from the left circle past goaltender Curtis Joseph with 12 seconds left in Toronto captain Mats Sundin's tripping penalty.
Slegr then gave the Penguins their first lead since their 2-0 victory in Game 1, faking a shot to draw Joseph out of the net before slamming the puck into a narrow opening beside the near post.
"I'm happy my first goal in the playoffs was such a big one," Slegr said. "It's just pure excitement."
The Penguins got only three shots in the third period, but scored on two in a game decided by a pair of frantic flurries.
Asked if it was unusual Pittsburgh won with so few shots in the pivotal period, Joseph said, " You'd think so, but this is a funny game."
After going nearly 1 1/2 periods without scoring, the two teams erupted for five goals -- and, several times, erupted at referee Kerry Fraser -- in a span of 4:37 of the second period.
Mike Johnson started the flurry at 8:21, directing Derek King's pass from behind the net by Tom Barrasso after King grabbed his own rebound -- the second game in a row Toronto has scored the first goal.
Kevin Hatcher tied it with a power-play goal at 10:42, but only after Fraser consulted with video replay judge Dale Ruth for nearly five minutes.
Hatcher, stationed at the right of the net, slapped at the puck, deflecting it off Toronto defenseman Alexander Karpovtsev's skate and toward Joseph as Brown also punched at it.
Joseph made a backward swipe as a portion of the puck appeared to trickle across the goal line near the left post, but several TV replays were inconclusive. None of the replays showed the puck clearly crossing the line.
"I had as good a look at it as anybody, but it happened so quick I don't know," Hatcher said.
"There was a ton of spin on it. I thought I jammed my blocker against the post, but it squirted out," said Joseph, who shouted "Good game" derisively at Fraser at the end of the game.
NHL supervisor of officials Charlie Banfield said that because the replays were inconclusive, the on-ice call was upheld. Fraser signaled a goal after goal judge Gary Steffenhagen flashed the goal light.
"He [the goal judge] was adamant," Banfield said. "If the replays are inconclusive, we go with the call on the ice."
Maple Leafs general manager Ken Dryden wasn't convinced, hanging around the press box for 40 minutes after the game to review the replays and argue with Banfield.
At one point, Dryden yelled at Banfield, "You bailed out on the call."
Still, the Maple Leafs didn't take long to regain the lead, as Derek King scored his first goal in 19 games at 12:19 -- just 26 seconds before Bobby Dollas answered with his first playoff goal for Pittsburgh.
Toronto regained the lead once more only 13 seconds later with a disputed goal of its own and the third goal in only 39 seconds.
With the Dollas line still on the ice, the Maple Leafs' Tie Domi jumped on the puck following a Penguins' giveaway in their own zone and steered it to rookie Adam Mair as he skated in on goaltender Tom Barrasso.
Mair ran over Barrasso, knocking him off his skates, as he steered the puck one-handed into what now was an open net. The Penguins bench argued the goal should be waved off for obstruction and Mair should be penalized, but the goal was upheld.
Mair is the only the 12th rookie in Maple Leafs history to debut in a playoff game.
With three goals in less than five minutes, the Maple Leafs topped their output in each of their first seven playoff games. They didn't score more than two goals in any game until beating Pittsburgh 4-2 Sunday.
Sundin was held scoreless after breaking out of a slump with two goals and two assists Sunday.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman attended the game and, during a brief news conference, emphasized the league stands behind Lemieux's bid, but must explore all options the longer the situation goes unresolved.
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