With each loss putting the Florida Panthers closer to another long summer, Jaromir Jagr was in no mood to talk Thursday night.
He was in a much better mood Friday.
Florida rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to beat the host New York Rangers 4-3 in a shootout at Madison Square Garden.
Jagr and his linemates Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau had a big hand in Friday’s win as Huberdeau scored Florida’s first goal off a pass from Jagr in the second period.
Barkov gave Florida a 3-2 lead in the third off a sweet dish from Jagr.
The two assists moved Jagr past the legendary Gordie Howe for most NHL points (269) after turning 40.
More importantly for Jagr — who quipped he would pass Howe’s mark for most points after 50 as well (Howe had one NHL season with the Hartford Whalers at age 52 and tallied 41 points) — was the Panthers finally made up a little ground in their chase for a playoff spot.
On Sunday, Jagr plays in his 1,700th NHL regular-season game.
Jagr, who turned 45 on Feb. 15, played 806 of them with the Penguins and Sunday will be his 170th with Florida.
“This was such a big game — and so was [Thursday],” said Jagr, who still seemed to have Thursday’s disappointing 2-1 loss to the Blue Jackets on his mind.
“We have to learn to just play hockey, play to win. We don’t learn after making mistakes.”
The Panthers at least temporarily moved up a little on Friday, pulling within five points of Toronto for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
Florida has 12 games left and players know there aren’t many more they can lose if they hope to make it to the postseason for the second consecutive season.
The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1996 and ’97.
“Right now, we need to not look at the standings, just play hockey and try to win every game we can,” said Barkov, who won Friday’s game with the lone goal in the shootout as goalie James Reimer went 3 for 3.
“The next game is going to be crucial for us again. It’s only 12 games left; we need to play smart and play good hockey.”
Florida’s three-game trip concludes Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, where the Panthers will face Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Pittsburgh could be without standout Evgeni Malkin, who left Friday’s morning skate with what Penguins coach Mike Sullivan called an upper-body injury.
The Panthers haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 2014, but a win Sunday afternoon would probably have Jagr smiling again.
“We have 12 [games] to go,” said Jagr, who helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 1991 and ’92 and captained the team from 1998-2001.
“We probably have to win 11 of them.”
Sunday: Panthers at Penguins
When/where: 1 p.m.; PPG Arena, Pittsburgh.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640.
Series: Pittsburgh leads 47-36-4.
Scouting report: The Penguins saw their four-game win streak halted with a shootout loss in Calgary on Monday but bounced back by beating the Devils on Friday night. Pittsburgh has won both meetings against Florida this season.