PHILADELPHIA – Jaromir Jagr isn’t acting his age, and the New Jersey Devils are thrilled about it.
Jagr scored the winning goal to snap a third-period tie and lead the New Jersey Devils to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
It was the 21st goal of the season and sixth game-winning tally for Jagr, who is the NHL’s career leader with 124. It also marked the 702nd career goal for the 42-year-old forward, who earlier this season became the seventh player to score 700 NHL goals.
Jagr, in his 20th NHL season, is enjoying the opportunity the Devils have provided him.
“Without the fun at my age, there’s no chance you can play,” Jagr said. “You have to grab the opportunity. I got a chance to play and now it’s up to me what kind of advantage I take of it.”
While outsiders might be surprised by Jagr’s success, those close to him aren’t.
“He’s done that all year for us,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “Nothing surprises me about him. When you’re around him, that’s why he’s one of the best of all time.”
Travis Zajac had the other goal for New Jersey (29-24-13), which won for the fifth time in seven games to move within two points of the third-place Flyers in the tightly bunched Metropolitan Division.
Adam Henrique was held in check by the Flyers, and his six-game goal streak was snapped. Henrique had nine goals and two assists during that run.
Nicklas Grossman scored for the Flyers (33-25-7), who are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
“Well, it’s a tough loss,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “Obviously, our team battled hard; it was a good game, I thought we competed hard. We didn’t score enough goals.”
Philadelphia had a potential tying goal by Scott Hartnell disallowed by officials with 40.1 seconds remaining because it was determined that Hartnell pushed goalie Martin Brodeur into the net.
“Not saying he did it on purpose, but his momentum threw him into me,” Brodeur said. “It really prevented me. It didn’t warrant a penalty. I think it’s the right call.”
Brodeur won for the fourth straight time. Like Jagr, the 41-year-old Brodeur didn’t show his age.
“He was in a zone,” Jagr said. “It’s Marty Brodeur, what do you want me to say? Either you’ve got it or you don’t, and he’s got it.”
Brodeur also praised Jagr for his winning goal.
“You can’t teach that,” he said of Jagr’s skill level. “These are things that he does that not many players are able to have, and it comes natural to him.”
Marek Zidlicky set up Jagr for the decisive tally with a backhanded pass from behind the net. Jagr lifted it off goalie Steve Mason and just inside the near post from close range to put New Jersey ahead 2-1 with 12:18 left.
“My dad always told me, ‘You have to keep moving in the offensive zone,'” said Jagr, who also had an assist. “That’s what we did, and something is always opening up. Lucky break, but since we were skating a lot it creates chances.”
Jagr, a former Flyers player, is no stranger to success against Philadelphia. He raised his career total to 103 points in 90 career games versus the Flyers.
“He was able to kind of just chip it and it snuck through there,” Mason said. “He’s a big body, strong player when he has the puck on his stick and is able to protect it.”
Zajac opened the scoring 7:56 in when he beat Mason top shelf from a difficult angle after getting the Flyers goalie to sprawl on the ice following a deke in front. It was Zajac’s 12th goal this season.
Grossmann tied it 47 seconds into the second period with a rare soft goal allowed by Brodeur. Grossmann whirled and wristed a shot from the side boards near the Flyers bench. Brodeur misplayed the puck, and it went between his legs.
Brodeur was solid otherwise, making 30 saves to improve to 50-31-10 against Philadelphia.
Mason fell to 0-4 against the Devils.
NOTES: Grossmann last scored on Feb. 20 of last season. … Flyers centre Zac Rinaldo (upper body injury) sat out. He is day-to-day. … Backup Philadelphia goalie Ray Emery (lower body injury) didn’t play despite practicing on Monday. Emery hasn’t played since being injured on Feb. 27. … New Jersey went 2-1-1 against Philadelphia this season.