Jaromir Jagr was the centerpiece of a cool, Star Wars-themed Florida Panthers team poster for Tuesday night’s game.
The 44-year-old future Hall of Famer then took center stage on the ice as he moved a step higher in the NHL’s record book.
Jagr’s three assists in the Florida Panthers’ 4-3 shootout win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres pulled him into a tie with Mark Messier for second place on the all-time scoring list.
After being given a rousing ovation by the home crowd following his third helper of the night, Jagr was celebrated by his teammates in the locker room.
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The puck, which marked his 1,887th NHL point, sat in his locker stall ceremoniously wrapped in stick tape.
“It’s great stuff, there’s no question about it” Jagr said afterward. “That’s a huge bonus for [doing] my job; I appreciate the fans, they recognized I was in second place.
“I always wanted to play for the fans, score goals and make great plays so they would come to the game and enjoy it.
“They appreciate that.”
As usual, Jagr was joined in his parade of milestones by Roberto Luongo who moved into a tie with Terry Sawchuck for fifth on the NHL’s all-time win list.
Luongo, who joined the Panthers in 2000 only to be traded away in 2005, has 447 victories in his career with the Islanders, Canucks and Panthers.
“Louie tying Sawchuck for fifth all-time is amazing as well,” coach Tom Rowe said.
“We’re really lucky ... this doesn’t come around a lot. We have two guys going to the Hall of Fame.
“To watch this from the front row is a lot of fun.”
Two assists by Jagr helped stake the Panthers to a 2-0 lead but watched the Sabres storm back and take a lead late in the third.
Buffalo, which beat the Panthers 3-0 in October, took the lead with 7:41 left on a Rasmus Ristolainen goal only Florida tied it with 3:54 left in regulation on Nick Bjugstad’s first of the season.
When Sasha Barkov went to fish the puck out of the net, Bjugstad thought it was to mark the end of his drought.
No, this puck was to commemorating Jagr pulling into a tie with his former (for one season) teammate with the New York Rangers.
“I kind of knew, but forgot [Jagr] was a point away,” Bjugstad said with a laugh as Jagr playfully teased him from the corner of the Florida locker room as is his daily routine.
“I was looking at Barky, going ‘don’t grab it’ but good thing he did because it ended up being for something else. Being on the ice for it ... We have a lot of fun with that guy and it’s an honor to be around him. We get a little wisdom from him, some laughs from him. He has been great for our organization.”
The first Jagr assist of the night came when Barkov opened the scoring with 3:51 left in the opening period by taking the pass from No. 68 then weaving through defenders Johan Larsson and Ristolainen and backhanding a shot past Robin Lehner.
Florida made it 2-0 at 12:14 of the second when Keith Yandle whipped a wrist shot from 40 feet out as Jagr played blocker in front of Lehner and was awarded the secondary assist to pull within a point of Messier.
The lead wouldn’t last all that long as the Sabres scored twice within a span of 1:10 late in the second period.
Buffalo pulled within a goal at 14:45 on a rare power play goal surrendered by Florida’s red-hit penalty kill as Sam Reinhart deflected a long shot from Ristolainen through heavy traffic in front of Roberto Luongo.
Just over a minute later, Evander Kane tied it up by knocking in a loose puck from his position in front of the cage.
“It looked pretty good for the first period then we had a tough five minutes in the second,” Jagr said. “I feel we had the game under control and played bad for five minutes and lost the lead. I’m glad we won it.”