Panthers forward reaches third all-time, trails Gretzky, Messier
DENVER — Jaromir Jagr didn’t waste time joining Gordie Howe as the third-leading scorer in NHL history.
The 44-year-old right wing got his 1,850th point at 9:42 of the first period in the Florida Panthers’ 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Thursday.
Jagr has 743 goals and 1,107 assists in 1,611 NHL games. He’s 37 points behind Mark Messier and 1,007 behind Wayne Gretzky.
Jagr was at the top of the right faceoff circle when he passed to Aleksander Barkov down low. Barkov slid the puck across to defenseman Erik Gudbranson for a shot past Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard to tie it 1-1.
But Jagr, who has four goals and three assists in the past seven games, didn’t find solace in the milestone point because of the loss, which left the Panthers in second place in the Atlantic Division and with a 1-2-1 record on a five-game road trip that ends Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We put ourselves in a hole, just pushing in the door, but the door was closed.”
Barkov said he felt honored to have played a part in the milestone point.
“It’s still an amazing accomplishment,” he said. “So many points in his career and still a lot coming. He’s a great player, and it’s an honor to play with him on the same team and on the same line.”
Jagr moved within one of Howe when he scored the game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
Jagr’s achievement was acknowledged when first-period highlights were shown during the intermission on the large video board that hangs over center ice.
The Avalanche took a 2-1 lead in the first period, Colorado center Matt Duchene made it 3-1 at 4:55 of the second, and Florida couldn’t get the tying goal after Brian Campbell closed the gap to 3-2 at 12:42.
Jagr had three of his four shots in the third when the Panthers peppered Pickard with 24 shots but couldn’t put one behind him.
“When we were winning, we always had a good start,” Jagr said. “It’s our mistakes, nobody else. You could see it was a playoff game. We matched it second and third period, but we didn’t match it in the first.
“They kind of surprised us. Their life is on the edge, the eighth and ninth (Stanley Cup Playoff) spot (in the Western Conference). We have to play the same way. Otherwise, we’re not going to win.”
Jagr, who leads the Panthers in scoring with 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) in 61 games, is playing a major role as the Panthers compete for first place in the Atlantic and attempt to secure a playoff position.
“He finds a way to get his points and he played a pretty solid game,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We’ve got to start quicker and be better at the start and be a consistent team for 60 minutes.”
Jagr has four goals and two assists in the past seven games. He played 19:32 on Thursday, was plus-1 and took a holding penalty late in the first period that Florida killed.
Howe played 1,687 games with the Detroit Red Wings and 80 in one season with the Hartford Whalers (1979-80). He played six seasons in the World Hockey Association.
Jagr missed three NHL seasons playing in the Kontinental Hockey League from 2008-11.
“Tying Gordie Howe, that’s incredible,” said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who was born Nov. 23, 1992, when Jagr was in the early stages of his third season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. “For him to do that despite being out of the League and in Russia for three or four years, that’s incredible.
“He just showed tonight why he’s been so successful. I mean, he’s so big and so strong and so skilled. Congrats to him.”