Another night, another milestone reached for Jaromir Jagr, and although this time it was a big one, it came in a game where the Panthers fell flat in all areas.
Most 44-year olds aren’t playing professional hockey, but Jagr was on Thursday night. With the Panthers down 2-0 late in the 3rd period, Mike Matheson’s one-timer from the high slot deflected off the rear end Jagr, who was stationed in front of the goaltender Tuukka Rask, and out to Aleksander Barkov who proceeded to net his 9th goal of the season.
The assist gave Jagr 1,888 points in his NHL career and gave him sole possession of 2nd place on the all-time points list behind Wayne Gretzky.
“I thought I was going to score a beautiful goal, beautiful assist,” said Jagr. “Of course I knew it. During my hockey career, even if it hits you, they don’t give it to you. I’m not the guy that’s going to tell [the referees] ‘it hit me,’ so we have to wait for everybody to say it’s ok. It would have been kind of embarrassing if we celebrated and then have them say it didn’t hit him.”
After the milestone was reached, the game was paused as captain Derek MacKenzie presented a gold replica stick on behalf of the Panthers, and Jagr spoke briefly to the fans in attendance with Randy Moller near center ice.
“It hit my [butt],” Jagr told the crowd. “I thought it was going to be a little bit prettier but I appreciate everything. I’ve played with so many great players during my career, starting in Pittsburgh, even right now with the Florida Panthers.”
The goal was the only one of the game for the Panthers as they had an incredibly difficult time getting anything going offensively the entire game. Jagr was understandably upset despite the hoopla surrounding his historic moment.
“We’ve got to win the hockey game,” he said. “Obviously it didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. The best thing is to just put it behind us. The whole team should concentrate on winning the games now. We didn’t play very well today.”
“It was a tough night for sure,” said head coach Tom Rowe. “Things weren’t clicking. We just weren’t playing our game. But we’ve got to learn from some of the mistakes we made.”
Frank Vatrano and Patrice Bergeron scored 3 minutes apart early in the 2nd period, the latter of which came on the power play and was just the 5th goal allowed by the Panthers’ penalty kill in their past 46 times shorthanded.
David Backes sealed the Panthers’ fate with an empty-net goal with 1:23 left after Keith Yandle fanned on the puck at the offensive zone blue-line.
Entering the game, the Panthers were just 2 points back of the Bruins for the 3rd spot in the Atlantic Division, but a loss expands the difference to 4 points while giving Boston its 3rd win of the season against Florida.
James Reimer made 30 saves on 32 shots while Tuukka Rask stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced. The Panthers allowed the first 6 shots of the game before closing out the 1st period with an 11-6 edge. They struggled in the 2nd, allowing just 16 shots while picking up 5 of their own.
“Every game’s big,” said Rowe. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing and when you’re playing them, you can’t fall too far behind. This group has always rebounded quickly, so we’re very confident that we’ll come out and play the right way tomorrow.”
The Panthers face the Red Wings on Friday in the second game of a back-to-back. They’re 3-0 this season against Detroit with their most recent victory coming on December 1st in overtime with the game-winner scored by Aleksander Barkov in overtime. The Red Wings have just 1 win in their last 6 games and last played on Tuesday against the Lightning in a 4-1 loss.