Leafs beat Pens 4-1, move within 1 win of conference finals
Posted: Sunday May 16, 1999 02:02 AM
TORONTO (AP) -- Twice in the third period, Jaromir Jagr raced into Toronto's zone with the puck on his stick, and both times defenseman Dimitri Yushkevich caught the Pittsburgh star and muscled him out of the play.
Nullifying Jagr was a key to a 4-1 victory Saturday night that put the Maple Leafs up 3-2 in the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals. Yushkevich played a tremendous game.
"My teammates helped cover for me, so it wasn't that hard," Yushkevich said. "I just tried to play against him like I play against anybody in the league, but always keeping in mind he's the best player in the world.
"He's a very strong guy and I try not to get involved with him physically in the neutral zone because if I lose my body position on him I lose everything. So I try to contain him in our end and try to take away his move to the middle."
Fanatical checking and goals by Sylvain Cote, Mike Johnson, Steve Thomas and Sergei Berezin won it for the Maple Leafs. The only puck to get behind Curtis Joseph was deflected in by teammate Kevyn Adams and was credited to Jan Hrdina.
Game 6 is Monday night in Pittsburgh, and unless Jagr can find a way to elude Yushkevich it might be all over in six games.
"Dimitri is doing a number on [Jagr]," said Joseph. "He's right there in his face every time."
Toronto jumped to a 2-0 lead on its first three shots on Tom Barrasso, who could not be blamed. Cote's slap shot from the blue line changed direction off Robert Lang and whizzed past Barrasso at 7:04, and Yushkevich's wrist shot from the blue line was deflected in by Johnson at 10:48. Both goals came shortly after Pittsburgh killed a penalty.
"We've been trying to get some traffic to the net and the first two goals were a direct result of that," said Johnson.
The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, checked the Penguins to a standstill. Frustration began to eat at Jagr. After being knocked to the ice cleanly by Yushkevich, Jagr swung his stick at him and was sent off for slashing at 19:34. Jagr threw his stick into the penalty box in anger.
Thomas made it 3-0 at 13:44 of the second period on a long cross-ice pass from Lonny Bohonos. Barrasso dropped to his knees and Thomas flipped the puck under the goalie's left arm as he skated beyond the goal line.
Hrdina got one back by accident when he passed from the side boards in Toronto's zone and Adams, reaching for the puck in front of the crease, poked it past an unsuspecting Joseph at 14:13.
Said Adams: "It's never happened before and let's hope it never happens again."
A capacity crowd of 18,800 roared its approval when Berezin burst into the clear and fired a low wrist shot past Barrasso with five minutes remaining in the game. Yanic Perreault had dug the puck loose along the boards.
"We have a lot of positives to carry over to Pittsburgh," said Maple Leafs forward Garry Valk.
Pittsburgh coach Kevin Constantine conceded that Yushkevich did "a pretty good job" on Jagr, but added that a groin injury that Jagr has played with throughout the playoffs once again hampered his skating.
"I don't think Jaromir is 100 per cent healthy," Constantine said. "I'm sure part of his frustration is that he's such a proud guy and he's so competitive and he wants to do so well that when he can't physically get done what he can do because of the injury, it's frustrating."
Jagr pointed to the absence of Alexei Kovalev, who missed his second straight game with a foot injury, and the subsequent shuffling of Pittsburgh's line combinations as one reason for the loss.
"It's frustrating when we don't play with the same lines," Jagr said. "Hopefully he's going to be back next game and we're going to play a lot better than we did tonight.
"They were the better team from the first minute. They have a great goalie and when you get down two goals to a team like that it's tough to come back. They deserved to win. We didn't want to be down 3-2 in this series. We were up 2-1. It's tough."
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