Penguins Dump Devils to Advance|
By Ray Van Horn, Jr. Copyright 1999
The New Jersey Devils won all the battles in the trenches, but lost the playoff war, as Martin Straka's goal and two assists, plus Jaromir Jagr's 3 assists contributed to a Pittsburgh Penguins' 4-2 Game 7 elimination of the Devils from the Eastern Conference playoffs.
A brisk, fast-paced, scoreless opening period saw the Penguins create excellent zone opportunities for themselves that would be later capitalized upon, while the Devils focused on shutting down Jaromir Jagr, who buried them in Game 6. As a result, the Devils allowed other Penguin players to romp over them in the second period.
German Titov led the way for Pittsburgh at 3:06 as he nailed a shot past a sprawled and beaten Martin Brodeur. Titov was set up by Martin Straka, who, in turn, received a pass from Jagr, who had been dropped in the corner of the rink.
New Jersey replied with a Jason Arnott score at 6:22, who chopped and hacked at the puck, finally sending it past three Penguin defenders and goalie Tom Barrasso. The Continental Arena's cheers quickly disippated to frustrated boos.
The Penguins struck back at 17:04 as Alexei Kovalev fired a wrist shot between Martin Brodeur's ankles. Straka picked up his second assist on the play.
Jan Hrdina iced the second period's scoring with 17 seconds left by unleashing a lightning-like wrister from a Jagr feed, making the score 3-1 at that point.
The Devils refused to go down silently, as Dave Andreychuk snagged a goal at 7:24 of the third off of the rebound of teammate Lyle Odelein's shot, cutting Pittsburgh's lead to 3-2.
Martin Straka, however, tag-teamed with Jaromir Jagr on a flubbed New Jersey change-up, leaving the two wide open to pick off Martin Brodeur at 14:30. After scoring the game winner, Straka bolted away, then slid on his rear in celebration, as the disgusted New Jersey fans filed out of the arena and mercilessly pummeled the Devils with a shower of boos.
It is the second season in a row in which New Jersey, the number one seed of the Eastern Conference playoffs, goes down to the eighth seed. The Ottawa Senators had victimized them the previous year.
The Penguins will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round. Jaromir Jagr commented on the win, noting that the key was to "try to shoot more on net and see what happens." Regarding the financial bankruptcy of the Penguins, Jagr added, "We needed this win. This is a big win for us."
Copyright©1999 The HockeyNut