Jagr the catalyst for Bruins' double-overtime win against Penguins
Penguins defenceman Deryk Engelland pushes Bruins forward Milan Lucic into goaltender Tomas Vokoun during Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference final at TD Garden in Boston, June 5, 2013. (WINSLOW TOWNSON/Reuters)
Jaromir Jagr stopped just before he left for the inner sanctum of the Boston Bruins dressing room, a black and gold toque on his head with Bruins logos stitched in along with the years the club has won the Stanley Cup.
At 41 years old, his best years are long behind him. But his ability to still battle, to accept a diminshed role and to continue to be motiviated to go for midnight skates in a weighted vest is one of the reasons the Bruins are one win away from a trip to the 2013 Stanley Cup final.
Late in the second overtime period – early Thursday morning in the East – Jagr won a puck battle along the boards against Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, a guy revered as Jagr once was as a threat on just every shift. Seconds later, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron ended the game, giving the Bruins a 2-1 win and a 3-0 lead in the NHL Eastern Conference final.
It looked like Jagr got away with a hook, his stick near Malkin’s mid-section parallel to the ice, right before he took the puck.
After dull performances in Games 1 and 2, the high-octane Penguins finally showed up Wednesday and showed us how thrilling this series could be. But now, sadly, after their 96-minute spectacle in Game 3, we’re but another Penguins loss away from ending this best-of-seven affair.
The Bruins can complete the sweep Friday night against a Penguins team that has managed just two goals in almost 216 minutes of hockey.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Jagr of the game-winner, pausing in the doorway to the players’ lounge. “Look at the tape. All I know is we scored.”
He then left but reappeared a few minutes later, noted the media throng around this stall and sent an equipment man to fetch his weighted vest.
Time for another midnight skate.
“He has a ton of respect in this room for coming in the way that he has. Obviously, the first couple of days guys are in awe of him because you’ve seen all the highlights and what he’s capable of through his career,” said Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference. “As time passes, the way that he works and tries to perfect himself and tries to learn and always better himself, guys respect that.
“Not only that, he’s not too good to not buy into what we’re trying to do and make plays that have not a chance of getting on his highlight reel. When he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame those plays tonight and in the last game are not going to make it on the highlights, but they got us wins. He’s got a ton of respect from us. Now we’re all appreciative that he’s getting some points for some of the stuff he has been doing.”
On the winning play, after Jagr got the puck going towards the Penguins zone, Marchand skated in on the left wing and fed a pass into the slot where Bergeron, who had position on Pittsburgh defenceman Brooks Orpik, tipped it behind Pens goaltender Tomas Vokoun.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma opted to start Vokoun over Marc-Andre Fleury, who had mopped up a disastrous Game 3, and Vokoun didn’t disappoint, waging a brilliant battle with Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.
It was a game-and-a-half of riveting hockey.
“It was long and tiring, but happy to be on the good side of it. Jags did an incredible job battling with Malkin and then getting the puck up to me,” said Marchand. “I was going to go in and shoot, but I saw Bergie get a step on his guy. I just threw it over and he made a great play to put it in.
“(Jagr) battled there and got it back. He’s so strong. You can never count him out. He played great tonight and he has the last few games. It’s the little things that you don’t realize what he’s doing. On our fourth goal the other night, he made a great hit to get it to Bergy. That’s what we need him to do and it’s why he’s such an incredible player.”
And one reason why the Bruins are one win away from playing for the Cup.
Do the Penguins have what it takes to come back in the series?
Yes, they have the skill
No, Boston is too strong