Panthers injury. Jaromir Jagr scores, grabs some history. Panthers win.
Welcome to another night in Pantherland.
A 3-1 win over a big, physical Winnipeg Jets team came courtesy of the Panthers two leading goal scorers. Jagr scored two goals to pass Brett Hull as the No. 3 goal scorer in NHL history behind Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. Reilly Smith’s 19th goal of the season, scored with the help of Kyle Rau in Rau’s NHL debut, stood as the game winner.
742 -- NHL career goals by Jaromir Jagr, third all-time.
801 -- NHL career goals by Gordie Howe, second all-time
894 -- NHL career goals by Wayne Gretzky, first all-time
Meanwhile, Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo rebounded after two porous starts last weekend. That got Luongo sat for two starts while Al Montoya handled the goal this week. Upon his return Saturday, he kept the Panthers in the game in the second period until they took over in the third.
“He looked really strong, especially in the second period when they had those two or three breakaways on him,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said after Luongo stopped 30 of 31 Winnipeg shots. “Sometimes, those three or four dyas off give you a chance to get back to your game.”
Rau and defenseman Michael Matheson got called up with center Aleksander Barkov and defenseman Erik Gudbranson out with what’re suspected to be — but not confirmed by the Panthers to be — concussions. Those who believe bad things come in threes nodded unsurprisingly when the Panthers’ second-leading scorer, Jonathan Huberdeau, got bopped into the end boards by Jacob Trouba on a first period rush.
Huberdeau didn’t return with an “upper body injury,” a term more ambiguous than the way he writhed face down while grabbing his head.
“It wasn’t a dirty hit,” Gallant said. “He got pushed into the boards and banged the back of his head, a little whiplash. I don’t think it’s really serious, but definitely out.”
Jagr said the win meant so much because, “there’s not many games left. We need every point we can get so we don’t have to rush those guys back.”
Diversity and versatility succeed these days with both the young and the old, as the 44-year-old Jagr’s goals demonstrated.
Jagr tied Hull for third all time in NHL goal scoring when he tied the game with a redirection of a Dmitri Kulikov pass on a four-on-three rush. Goal No. 2 of the game, No. 20 of the season and No. 742 of his NHL career came from Jagr doing plumber work down low, muscling the puck from behind the net to the front and extricating himself from 6-8 defenseman Tyler Myers to swat home a 3-1 lead
Earlier in the day, Rau described his game as playing in the dirty areas along the boards and in front of the net. Rau’s description and relative lack of size recalled the game of former Minnesota North Star Dino Ciccarelli, although the Minnesota native said nobody made that connection to him.
But in the third period, with Rau in the Ciccarelli position on the doorstep annoying Winnipeg goalie Mark Hutchinson, Reilly Smith blew a power play right circle wrister through Hutchinson.
“Rau was really good,” Gallant said. “Small guy but goes hard to the net. Matheson moves the puck well and skated really well.”