UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Now that Jaromir Jagr has 700 NHL goals in the bank, the future Hockey Hall of Famer is already setting his sights on his next big milestone.
There are only six guys who have ever scored more. So yes, this is a significant marker to reach.
“Maybe not for Wayne Gretzky, but for the rest of us it’s a very big number—800 is a little bit better than 700,” he said.
Jagr scored in the second period of the New Jersey Devils’ 6-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Through bits of laughter, Jagr suggested that 800 goals is attainable, as well as Gretzky’s record 894. With tongue firmly in cheek, Jagr said he could get to the first number in two years and Gretzky’s mark in four.
So far, he has no plans for the special puck that got past goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
“I might save the 800th one, but I don’t know what I am going to do with the 700th,” he said with a smile.
Jagr’s tally sparked New Jersey’s four-goal second period, and Martin Brodeur earned the win in his first start in over a month.
Jagr gave the Devils a 2-0 lead early in the second, and Ryane Clowe, Marek Zidlicky, and Mark Fayne followed in rapid succession. The four goals came in a span of 4:36 in the first 8:07 of the second.
Adam Henrique opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 5:00 of the first. New Jersey needed only 12 shots to net its first four goals and 16 total to get to five against the beleaguered Nabokov. Clowe and Zidlicky, with a milestone assist from Jagr, also tallied during power plays.
“The game went away from us pretty quickly. We deflated after they scored two power-play goals,” Nabokov said. “This is part of the business. You got knocked down, but you have to get up again and you have to do the job.
“When the penalty kill is good, the goalie makes the saves. Today that wasn’t the case.”
Kyle Okposo cut New York’s deficit to 3-1 at 6:14 of the second with his team-leading 25th goal, but the Devils quickly answered with two more goals. Anders Nilsson, recalled Saturday from Bridgeport (AHL), made 15 saves in the third period in place of Nabokov, who stopped only 14 shots.
Eric Gelinas scored a power-play goal with 38.1 seconds left to make it 6-1.
Brodeur, the subject of trade rumours less than a week before the NHL deadline, played for the first time since being pulled from a loss to the New York Rangers on Jan. 26 at Yankee Stadium when he allowed six goals on 21 shots in two periods. Cory Schneider started all seven games since.
“I am happy I’m back playing. That’s the bottom line,” Brodeur said. “I play hockey to play hockey games. It’s been a hard month.
“I wish every game was like that. It would make it a lot easier on us. I did my job in the first with the chances they had after we scored our goal to keep the game under control. The second and third we just took over.”
Brodeur, who said he did the rare move of tapping his stick to honour Jagr’s milestone goal, stopped 10 shots in the first period and 18 overall in earning his 14th win this season and 683rd of his NHL career.
“I didn’t have a great warmup, so I was kind of really bearing down in the game,” Brodeur said. “They got some great chances early on and I was able to make the saves. That makes you feel a little bit good about your game.”
Brodeur said he had thoughts that this could be his final game with the Devils, the only NHL team for which he has played. He holds the right to refuse any trade.
“It’s just a little different because my name has been swarming around a little bit,” the soon-to-be 42-year-old Brodeur said of trade rumours. “We have a couple of more days to go and we will see what the future will bring for me.”
The 42-year-old Jagr moved into the elite goal group when he netted his 19th of the season. The Islanders have been Jagr’s top target in his 20 NHL seasons. He has 61 goals and 88 assists in 101 career games.
“Is it that many? I love this team,” Jagr said. “It’s my favourite team. That’s a lot of goals. It’s almost 10 per cent.”
Jagr stickhandled from the right wing boards into the slot and then slid a shot along the ice that eluded Nabokov at 3:31 of the second.
Jagr was surrounded by his teammates on the ice with him and then skated across the front of the bench, patting gloves along the way. He received a nice ovation from the crowd when his milestone was announced.
“Well they knew I scored 61 goals against them,” he said with yet another laugh.
The Islanders are the only team from the old Patrick Division for which Jagr, a recent Czech Republic Olympian, has never played. This is his first season with New Jersey.
Jagr is only eight goals behind Mike Gartner, sixth on the NHL career list. Jagr is seventh in career points with 1,740.
Gretzky netted his 700th goal on Long Island on Jan. 3, 1991, while with Los Angeles. Marcel Dionne, then of the Rangers, also reached the mark against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 31, 1987. Dionne is fourth with 731 goals.
Jagr later set up Zidlicky’s goal that pushed the Devils ahead 4-1. It was Jagr’s 1,040th assist, tying him with Dionne for ninth in NHL history.
NOTES: Islanders defenceman Travis Hamonic has been suspended one game without pay by the NHL for instigating a fight against the Devils’ Ryan Carter during the final five minutes. In addition, New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano has been fined $10,000. Hamonic was assessed a minor penalty for instigation, a major penalty for fighting and a game misconduct at 15:23 of the third period. Both the suspension to the player and the fine of the coach are automatic for a violation of Rule 46.22. … Devils captain Bryce Salvador missed the game because of a bruised collarbone. D Anton Volchenkov took his place in the lineup. RW Damien Brunner also sat out because of a charley horse in his left leg. C Jacob Josefson replaced him. … The Islanders loaned G Kevin Poulin to Bridgeport (AHL). … Clowe, Henrique and Zidlicky had two-point games. … New York had killed 21 of 22 penalties over eight games before yielding four power-play goals.