LOS ANGELES - After the cameras drifted away and his postgame scrum died down some, Jaromir Jagr spoke modestly about former teammate Mario Lemieux and the impact Lemieux had on his career.
Jagr's teammates have been heaping the same praise on him for years now, and it was quite poignant Thursday night after Jagr tied Lemieux for ninth on the all-time goal-scoring list with an overtime winner that gave the New Jersey Devils an improbable 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings.
"I didn't really have a chance to see Wayne [Gretzky] when he was doing the 200-point season when he was in Edmonton," said Jagr, who joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990 and was a member of two Stanley Cup-winning teams with Lemieux. "When I came in the League I was playing with Mario. He was the guy I was looking up to. I know Wayne got all the records, but to me, I got a better chance to look for Mario. I could see him every day in practice, the way he plays. He was a huge influence on the game I play.
"I was pretty lucky to see him at his best. I tied him, but he probably played 600 less games than me. This is just a number, but he didn't play many games. If he would have played as many games as me, he would probably have 2,500 points and 900 goals."
Lemieux scored his 600 goals in 915 games; Thursday was Jagr's 1,413rd.
The goal was also Jagr's 18th in overtime, extending his own NHL record, and his team-high ninth of the season. Jagr also tied Gordie Howe for first on the all-time game-winning goals list with No. 121.
"He played 'til 50," Jagr, 41, said of Mr. Hockey. "I've got nine years to go."
While Lemieux has company, New Jersey has some overtime mojo. The Devils were 0-5 in games that went beyond regulation before beating the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday; they now have back-to-back OT victories in the first two games of a three-game trip.
New Jersey (9-8-5) won despite being outshot 35-15. Goalie Cory Schneider improved to 2-5-3 while Scrivens took his first loss since he became the starter after Jonathan Quick suffered a groin injury last Tuesday. New Jersey still hasn't given Schneider much support with 12 goals scored in his 10 starts.
"We stuck with it, didn't get down on ourselves and we didn't give up. The first two periods weren't the way we drew it up, but give the guys credit, they kept working and ultimately came away with another big win," Schneider said.
Jagr said the Devils should have lost the game 5-0 but pulled it out thanks to Schneider, who has a lifetime save percentage of .961 against the Kings, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We got a lot," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said "We have to finish the deal. It was tough to score. They have the best goaltending in the League."
Jagr said he was operating blind on the game-winner.
"I kind of got the pass from behind," he said. "I didn't even see the goalie. I didn't see the net … That's the move - hold it, hold it, hold it. But you always put it top shelf. I'm not that good. That's the only [way] I had a chance - just outpatient the goalie. That's how I put it in. But I didn't really see the net, to be honest with you."
It took a great breakout for the Kings to get their first goal and force a 1-1 tie 65 seconds after New Jersey remarkably put a puck in the net after 40-plus minutes of ineffectiveness.
Anze Kopitar came down with speed on a 2-on-1 with Justin Williams and fired a shot off Schneider. The puck bounced inches from the goal line and Williams beat his man to tap it in at 6:57 of the third period.
It was an important response required by L.A. after it bottled up the Devils for most of the night only to see New Jersey break through on its seventh shot of the game. Ryan Carter wheeled around the left side and sent a backhand that sailed through Willie Mitchell's legs and into the top corner of the net at 5:52 -- and just like that, New Jersey had a 1-0 lead.
It was the first meeting between the teams at Staples Center since the Kings beat the Devils in Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final to win the first championship in franchise history. This wasn't nearly as dramatic but L.A. channeled that championship defense and didn't allow the Devils so much as a nibble, outshooting them 27-5 through two periods.
But the Kings couldn't crack Schneider despite three power plays drawn by Matt Frattin, who induced tripping, hooking and roughing penalties on the Devils.
"We definitely got lots of shots and lots of opportunities," Kopitar said. "We didn't bear down on them. That was the key to their success.
"[We'll] just try to take the positives out and build on stuff that can be improved and come back Saturday and have a strong game."
New Jersey scratched Damien Brunner in favor of Mattias Tedenby because of Brunner's lack of production, but it didn't matter. Actually, it might have been worse because L.A. made sure that Scrivens saw all of five shots in the first 40 minutes and none on a textbook L.A. penalty kill in the first period that barely let New Jersey in its zone.
|Drew Doughty Interference against Ryan Carter|
|Andy Greene Tripping against Matt Frattin|
|Daniel Carcillo Fighting (maj) against Cam Janssen|
|Cam Janssen Fighting (maj) against Daniel Carcillo|
|Stephen Gionta Hooking against Matt Frattin|
|Jaromir Jagr Tripping against Matt Frattin|
|Ryan Carter Roughing against Alec Martinez|
|Jarret Stoll Holding against Dainius Zubrus|
|Jaromir Jagr Holding against Dustin Brown|
|Dustin Brown Diving against Jaromir Jagr|