Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Number 68-So Great!!
For a number of years, I have sent out little signals that Jaromir Jagr was not quite finished as a hockey player. He proved that yet again last Saturday night, when he moved into third place on the NHL All Time Goal scoring list with his 741st and 742nd goals. He now trails Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky. The Panthers topped the Winnipeg Jets 3-1.
He held court in his corner of the locker room for quite some time after the game. He wore the “Spacey in Space” hoodie which is given to the player of the game, as determined by his teammates. “When I got birthday cake for my 44th birthday, you get the wish. I said, “I wish to be a goal scorer. So it worked for me. Maybe I'm going to catch Gordie and maybe Wayne Gretzky too!”
He held the puck numbered “742”, and continued. “I don't really think about it, to be honest with you. I don't feel I played well the last few games, so I wanted to make sure I played a little bit better today. I had a little bit more jump. I'm glad I helped the team win.”
Milestones always feel better after a win.
Jagr's first goal came on a tipped shot, a seemingly harmless shot from the point off Kulikov's stick. 16 210 fans cheered for the oldest player in the league, including players from both benches who stood to acknowledge the feat. It was Jagr's 19th goal this season. Not to be outdone, Reilly Smith also potted his 19th goal on a crisp wrist shot, also assisted by Kulikov.
In the third period, Jagr found a loose puck at the front of the net and wristed it up to the top corner of the net, beside the proverbial peanut butter. He did an emphatic fist pump to celebrate, a little out of character. Again, both benches stood to pay respect.
Coach Paul Maurice pulled the Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson with 2:32 remaining in the game. Jagr made two trips to the ice to try to get the hat trick goal, to no avail. As the final buzzer sounded, the fans littered the ice with rats, again a customary gesture here in South Florida.
Roberto Luongo saved the Panthers bacon on several occasions in the game. One reporter asked him about the two clear breakaways in the second period. Luongo raised his eyebrows, smiled and said, “There were three!” After a couple of tough games, he told the throng that he felt good that evening. “My body was going toward the puck.”
He also commented on Jagr's game. “It was awesome. He was flying tonight. You could tell that he was on top of every puck.”
It was centre Kyle Rau's first NHL game. He played at the University of Minnesota, and was drafted by the Panthers in 2011. I congratulated him. “I am really fortunate to be in this position at this time.” Michael Matheson also played his first game for the Panthers.
The team lost Jonathan Huberdeau in the first period. There is a serious injury bug at this time for the Panthers. Currently in sick bay? Dave Bolland (24), Willie Mitchell (12), Erik Gudbranson (7), Alexander Barkov (5), Brandon Pirri (2), and Quinton Howden (2). Games missed are in parenthesis.
That needs to be straightened out before the playoffs begin. No kidding!
February 22, 2016.