LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Even though the goals and assists don’t come in bunches on a regular basis anymore for Jaromir Jagr, every now and then he displays the form and instincts that have kept him playing hockey at a high level, even at age 41.
Jagr had his first multi-goal game since opening night, Brenden Morrow got the go-ahead goal in the third period, and the Dallas Stars ended the Kings’ six-game home winning streak with a 5-2 victory on Thursday night.
Jagr’s three-game goal streak is his longest since his final four games of the 2007-08 regular season with the Rangers. The nine-time All-Star and 1999 MVP spent the next three years out of the NHL before returning last season with Philadelphia, and has 28 goals in 95 games since his comeback began.
He needs four assists to join Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic and former Pittsburgh teammate Mario Lemieux as the only players in NHL history with at least 1,000 assists and 600 goals.
“The goals and the points, it’s not in my head. That’s why it’s sometimes hard to get them,” Jagr said. “If you want to be a goal scorer and win scoring titles, you have to be hungry. But I’ve changed. I’m not 22 or 25 anymore, so I don’t look at the stats.
“But personally, my body never gets tired. The more I play, the fresher I get and the stronger I get. I think it would be better if I played one more game right now.”
Jagr and Cody Eakin connected on power plays for Dallas’ first two goals after penalties against Los Angeles defenceman Keaton Ellerby. Jagr converted a rebound of Jamie Benn’s shot with 10:20 remaining, his ninth of the season and 674th of his career—10th on the NHL’s all-time list.
“I don’t know what I want to bring to this team. I’m not really sure,” Jagr said. “Last year, I know they had a lot of guys who could score goals, and this year I’m getting paid more money than I did last year. So I’ve got a little more responsibility on the power play and scoring goals. So I have to change my thinking a little bit.”
Eakin is impressed.
“He’s been playing real strong for us, and we need him to be playing like this,” Eakin said. “He’s a threat out there every night, and it’s huge for the team when he produces like that. He’s been around for a long time and he’s seen it all in this game. I think I read somewhere that he won a Stanley Cup the day after I was born—so guys have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”
Antoine Roussel completed the scoring with an empty-net goal and Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 shots in his third straight start, after missing the previous five games with a lower body injury.
Jeff Carter scored his 12th goal in 12 games and 16th this season for Los Angeles. Trevor Lewis also scored for the defending Stanley Cup champions and Jonathan Quick made 17 saves.
“We didn’t get good enough goaltending tonight,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “We need to raise the save percentage. It’s one stat that doesn’t lie, right? … If you’re giving up four goals a game, you can’t win. You need better goaltending and better defence. Simple. “
Quick’s record slipped to 7-7-2. Last season he was 35-21-13 while setting franchise records with 10 shutouts, a 1.95 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage before winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The Kings took a 2-1 lead shortly after they were stopped by Lehtonen on a short-handed bid. Carter’s wrist shot from the right caromed into the net off Benn’s left skate. But Dallas pulled even late in period as Eakin chipped the puck past the backchecking Martinez in the Kings’ zone and beat Quick to the glove side while Ellerby was off for hooking Trevor Daley.
“We played OK, but kind of up and down—spurts of good and spurts of bad—and we let a team like that hang around and they kind of took over in the third,” Kings forward Colin Fraser said.
“They seemed to have the puck a lot and they just took it to us a little too much.”
Jagr opened the scoring 5:28 into the game. Ellerby was off for tripping Erik Cole when Benn passed the puck from the top of the right circle to Jagr about 10 feet to the left of the net, and the five-time NHL scoring champ one-timed it past Quick.
“The first one was beautiful. He found me on the back door on the power play,” Jagr said. “The first 15 games we kind of struggled on the power play, but lately we’ve been doing a lot better job. That’s important because it’s a short season and the games are so tight. So the special teams are going to win the games for you.”
Los Angeles tied it when Dwight King’s persistent forechecking behind the net allowed Lewis to gain control. He circled the net before using Vernon Fidler as a screen to beat Lehtonen high to the stick side.
This was the opener of a five-game season series with the Stars, whom the Kings beat out for the final Western Conference playoff berth before becoming the first eighth seed to win a Stanley Cup.
“Of course you’re more excited when you come to play against the team that just won the Cup, so I think that really helped us get ready to battle,” Lehtonen said.
NOTES: Morrow’s goal was his 243rd with the Stars, tying Jere Lehtinen for second place on the Dallas list behind Mike Modano’s 434. Modano scored 123 other goals for the franchise while it was in Minnesota. … Los Angeles D Rob Scuderi and Dallas LW Eric Nystrom were both raised in the same town, Syosset, N.Y., which is about 30 miles east of Madison Square Garden. Nystrom is the son of Bobby Nystrom, who won four Stanley Cup titles with the Islanders.