The New York Rangers have all summer to figure out what they did wrong against Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. It just might take that long, too.
Jagr scored three times in 171/2 minutes and Lemieux also had three goals as the Pittsburgh Penguins' stable of scorers won a second-period shootout to eliminate the Rangers from the playoffs 7-3 Saturday night.The Game 5 victory sends the Penguins into the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 1992. They will have a week off before meeting either Philadelphia or Florida beginning on Saturday or Sunday.
"You have to give credit to the two best players in the world right now," Rangers coach Colin Campbell said. "They were too much for us in every area."
Lemieux scored eight goals and Jagr had seven in the series - matching the Rangers' 15 goals - to clearly outplay New York's big guns, Mark Messier and Brian Leetch. They scored three goals, all by Messier.
"It's totally disappointing when you lose," Messier said. "I don't know if there is a good way to lose or an easy way to lose . . . but Pittsburgh played a great series. We'll have to live for another day."
Lemieux and Jagr, healthy and on top of their games together for the first time since the Penguins won consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, have 10 goals apiece in 11 playoff games.
"Matchups became non-existent," Campbell said. "It didn't matter who we put out there against them. They scored at will."
The victory was not without cost as the Penguins lost center Ron Francis, the NHL's fourth-leading scorer, to a broken left foot. He was hit by a shot during the second period and is not expected back even if Pittsburgh reaches the Stanley Cup finals.
Ken Wregget, the one-time backup turned backbone of the Penguins' defense, again had a big night in goal, stopping 29 of 32 shots as Pittsburgh eliminated New York for the third time since 1989. None of the series lasted more than six games.
"We scored the key goals when the team needed us to," said Lemieux, who sat out last year's playoffs for health reasons. "Jags played a great series, and Kenny Wregget was the key. When we give up only 2-3 goals a night, I like our chances."
Avalanche 4, Blackhawks 1
At Denver, Valeri Kamensky scored two goals, and Patrick Roy had a shutout until the final five minutes as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Chicago Blackhawks and moved within one game of the Western Conference finals.
Colorado leads the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series 3-2 and can clinch the series in Game 6 Monday in Chicago. A seventh game, if necessary, would be played in Denver on Wednesday.
Roy, bidding for his seventh career playoff shutout which would have been the most among active goaltenders, lost it at 14:42 when Jeremy Roenick put a backhander past Roy.
That made the score 3-1, but Kamensky got his second goal of the night two minutes later, beating Ed Belfour from just inside the blue line.
Roy finished with 22 saves, and Belfour had 24.
Colorado left wing Chris Simon scored the only goal of a tight-checking first period.
On only his second shift of the night, Simon scored his first goal of the playoffs at 14:33. Chicago's Brent Sutter won a faceoff in the Chicago end against Dave Hannan, but his pass was intercepted by Simon, who then skated to the top of the slot and sent a shot over Belfour's right shoulder.
Belfour had a key stop on a breakaway by Joe Sakic, and Chicago squandered a scoring chance when Joe Murphy shot wide on a 2-on-1 break.