The feel good story of the NHL season, Jaromir Jagr, did in the Wild tonight.
In a game the Wild had the better of the play and the better of the chances, the 43-year-old future Hall of Famer scored goals 734 and 735 and points 1,829 and 1,830 in a 2-1 victory. Ninth straight victory for the team I once covered.
Vintage Jagr on the winner 8:52 into the third. Jagr flew into the offensive zone, backed off Marco Scandella, created separation, cut to the middle and whistled a beauty against the grain by a Mikko Koivu screen that Devan Dubnyk also said deflected off Koivu’s shin pad.
“We had one of ours from Finland that did it a lot of years,” Koivu said of recently-retired Teemu Selanne. “What [Jagr’s] doing now takes a lot from a player, it takes a lot of dedication to the game. I’m sure it’s not easy to stay on top of the game and stay in with the young guys. It is something special.”
Last month, Jagr begged fans on Twitter to stop giving him All-Star Game votes. The top vote-getter for each division would be named captain and have to attend. Jagr said 3-on-3 would kill him, tweeting, “I don’t want to die yet.”
Well, the poor guy won. Speaking about the “honor” for the first time after Sunday’s performance, the grayed, grizzled Jagr said, “I asked the fans don’t vote for me, and they didn’t listen. I think they didn’t like me much, so they wanted to see me dead.
“Probably the fans think I need to get into shape. I don’t deserve the rest. Everybody else is going to have vacation, and I’ve got to play 3-on-3. That’s great.”
The Wild fell to 1-1-1 on the road trip that ends Tuesday in Columbus. The Wild rarely plays well there. The Jackets have recently beaten Dallas and Washington, arguably the two best teams in the NHL. But the Wild could be facing a third- or fourth-string goalie because Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney are injured.
The Wild, the NHL’s 24th-ranked penalty kill, did a great job tonight dousing five Florida power plays. Uncharacteristic penalties from a team that had been shorthanded the fewest times in the NHL.
But the Wild’s 29th-ranked road power play, which is 6 for 57 in 18 road games, went 0 for 4.
It was a shame it couldn’t convert because the Wild generated plenty of chances. Nine of its 39 shots were on the power play. Guys like Matt Dumba had five shots one night after getting a franchise-record for a defenseman nine. Tonight, Ryan Suter had a career-high eight shots overall.
The Wild seemed to respond well to the new lines concocted by coach Mike Yeo and his staff. A clearly laboring Zach Parise and Jason Zucker, who became the Wild’s fifth 10-goal scorer in this game, skated as Koivu’s wings and one of the best Wild lines on this night was actually veterans Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville between Mikael Granlund.
Pominville, coming off some poor games recently, was much more engaged physically, strong on the forecheck and generated scoring chances on the line. In the second period, two quality shifts in a row by the line ultimately led to a Wild power play.
He’s still a mess on the power play though.
Here are some quotes from the postgame:
Suter on Jagr: “His curve’s so big and such a long stick and a quick release. It’s pretty impressive. It’s funny. He’s not that good of a skater. Never has been, but just comes down and creates so much separation. It opened up for him. The fact that he’s still doing it is pretty impressive.”
On the four power plays: “It was nice to finally get some. It’s too bad we couldn’t have capitalized. We had some good opportunities to tie it up and before we got down to take the lead. It [stinks] that we weren’t able to capitalize, but at least we’re getting power plays again. Hopefully our 5-on-5 play continues to go the way it has been so we can draw penalties.”
On not scoring on the power play: “We scored last game,” Suter said, referring to his goal being overturned on Parise’s incidental contact (the Wild disagree with the ruling. “Tonight we had a couple looks. Zach had a good shot. Al played really well. I hit him in the knob on the first one. Zach had a good shot. We had good looks. But they’ll come. Hopefully they’ll come in bunches soon.”
“I thought 5-on-5 we dictated a lot of the play. Vanek, Granny and Pommer had a few good shifts, our line a couple good ones, I think everybody had some really good shifts 5-on-5. We gave them too many power plays and that gets you out of the flow of the game sometimes.”
On Montoya: “We had some good quality shots, some good quality chances, he played really well.”
On all the chances: “It’s a start. A lot of us in general haven’t had a ton of offensive zone time, a lot of neutral zone. We didn’t win but we have to build off that and make sure we’re ready to go into Columbus.”
“A lot of zone time, but I’m not sure if we got real quality chances as much. He kept the rebounds and we just couldn’t get to the loose the pucks, so I think at that point you’ve got to give the goalie credit if you can’t get to the second pucks. I thought we got looks, I thought we got some good shots, especially from up top, and couldn’t capitalize.”
On the special teams (nine combined power plays): “I thought power play, it’s not an excuse but we did have momentum and chances. It was just he was the last guy to stop the puck. I thought PKs were solid. I thought there was a lot of good, but obviously the goals are what count. But that’s more important right now that we get the momentum and some quality chances. You’ve got to believe that it’s going to go in. We’ve got to stay on it and keep creating.”
Jagr: “He knows how to put the puck in the net, that’s for sure. Got lucky on the game winner. It’s disappointing that has to be the way it goes in. Just got deflected off a shin pad. It was coming right back at me.”
“It was a different game. I thought our power play was going a good job there working around and getting chances. Unfortunately couldn’t get one to go in.”
“It’s too bad. It was one of our better road games, but we didn’t put the puck in the net and came away shorthanded.”
On taking five penalties: “Yeah, but at the same time we can say the penalty kill did a great job and at the same time I’d rather be taking penalties than sitting around watching them play. Whether it was finishing checks or whatever it was, we were trying to create turnovers. I’d rather make mistakes being aggressive than let them come at you and have to deal with the consequences there. Obviously now the next step will be to make sure we keep that aggressiveness and stay out of the box a little bit more.”
Jagr: “As long as I’ve been around him since before I was in the league, he’s been finding a way to do it. I’m not too surprised.”
Power play: “A lot of movement, a lot of zone time, just not a lot of goals. Maybe we’re not helping things. We keep trying different set ups or personnel. It’s difficult not having practice time right now. But this is what we have to deal with and we have to find a way.”
Is that why Matt Dumba was taken off the last power play for Thomas Vanek (net-front): “It was an opportunity to try something different.”
Ryan Carter aggravate his hand injury: “Nothing broken. X rays were negative but he was in too much pain to come back. I think he’ll be OK for next game, but I’m not sure.”
Still could be ok trip with win in Columbus?: “I don’t think that’s a building that we can just say we’ll go in and take advantage of. It’s a tough building to play in and I think that’s going to be a really tough game for us. We’re going to have to find a way to get our rest here. Playing three in four and four in six it’s going to be a good challenge against a team playing real hard against us.”
Monday is a planned day off for the team. Barring news, talk to you Tuesday from Ohio. I’ve got to get out of here. I think Nick Bjugstad passed along his migraines to me. Enjoy the Vikings game.