But that was only the beginning.
Jagr scored on a snap shot from the slot to tie the game in the second period, then made a beautiful pass for the go-ahead goal.
The 42-year-old has been battling flu symptoms for 10 days. A few hours before the game, he wasn't sure if he was well enough to play.
"I told the coach at 4 o'clock, I told him don't play me a lot, I don't feel very well. I had no energy," Jagr said. "But something changed with one hour to go. I started feeling more excited about the game. Everything changed in a minute."
Jagr's heroics were only part of the story. Cory Schneider stopped 39 shots, including 17 in the third period, to win his 11th game.
"(We were) hanging on, but I don't care at this point," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. "We just need points. It's a tough building against a desperate team. We expected a big push from them, and between our goalie and some gutsy shot blocks, we found a way."
After a sluggish first period, Justin Faulk put the Hurricanes up 1-0 at 7:11 of the second period. Carolina won a faceoff and moved the puck sharply before Andrej Nestrasil set up Faulk in the high slot for a wrist shot that beat Schneider over the blocker.
On a night when the Devils (11-13-4) used a patchwork lineup and did not have a lot of jump, the momentum seemed to shift as quickly as Jagr's health.
Scott Gomez set up Jagr to tie the game 1-1 at 14:45 of the second. After a Ron Hainsey turnover, Gomez collected the puck in the corner and found Jagr in the slot, where he beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward with a low shot for his fifth goal.
The goal gives Jagr 710 in his career, seven behind Phil Esposito for fifth all-time.
Gomez and Jagr teamed up for the game-winning goal on the power play with 14 seconds remaining in the second. Gomez moved the puck to Jagr, who quickly circled the net and wrapped a pass to Henrique at the far post for his eighth goal.
Jagr's assist, which moved him past Dionne on the points list, was the 1,062nd of his career, one behind Steve Yzerman for seventh on the NHL's all-time assists list.
The two assists for Gomez were the first points since he signed with New Jersey on Dec. 1. He was quick to express appreciation for what his new linemate has done since coming into the NHL in 1990.
"The guy just knows how to get open and he can still dominate a hockey game," Gomez said. "It's funny, we all grew up being fans of him. To think of the numbers, it's just incredible for hockey and for him. If he plays like that, it makes my job easier. Just get him the puck."
The third period provided a difficult test for the Devils, who were outshot 17-1. Schneider was under constant pressure. Two of his best saves came in the final minute, stopping Jiri Tlusty at the right post, then getting a glove on Nathan Gerbe's backhand shot from between the circles.
"That's what desperate teams do, they throw everything they've got at you," Schneider said. "We would have liked to have the puck a little bit more, but sometimes you have to block shots and hold your ground. Some guys made key plays and got key blocks, and you need a few saves too."
For the Hurricanes (8-16-3), the season continues in a downward spiral. Carolina has lost 10 of its past 13.
"I don't even know if it was a hot goaltender," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "I think it's just self-inflicted wounds. The first one, we had the puck on our stick and it ends up in our net. The second one, we're on a power play, and the next thing you know we're killing a penalty and there's the game-winner. It's disappointing."
For DeBoer, the two points came as a relief, considering New Jersey was playing without leading goal-scorer Mike Cammalleri, Patrik Elias and others. But he took a moment to admire the accomplishments of Jagr's unique talent.
"I remind myself daily being around him that this is all special," the Devils coach said. "We might never see this again. I don't think I will see this in my lifetime, a guy who plays this long at the level he's playing at."
Jagr has reflected often in recent years, particularly since his return from a three-year stint in the Kontinental Hockey League. He doesn't have a lot to say about his numbers, except to acknowledge his good health and the reason he feels the points have piled up.
"I've played on some pretty good teams with a lot of good players," he said. "That's what it takes. Sooner or later, you score some goals."