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CZECH THAT OFF THE LIST

Living legend Jagr pots first goal and assists on Jankowski's first career tally in momentous night

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

He notched his first goal 27 years and 33 days ago, in a building that no longer exists (the Pittsburgh Igloo) and now serves as a parking lot, assisted by a guy (Chris Dahlquist) who's been retired for two full decades, against a goaltender who's 52 years old and currently in charge of the NY Islanders' puck-stoppers (Chris Tererri).

"That,'' marvelled Mark Jankowski, "is wild."

Ain't it just.

In the interim, Jaromir Jagr has spanned eras and trends and dynasties, won Stanley Cups and other hunks of individual hardware, run down the greatest names in the game's history on the scoring charts and defied time itself.

The first career goal of a sure-fire, slam-dunk Hall-of-Fame career arrived Oct. 7, 1990. No. 766, Thursday night, almost popped the saddle-shaped roof off its moorings.

The big Czech may have lost a step at 45 but none of his power to astound or work a crowd.

"Any first goal for any team is special, especially in Canada,'' said Jagr, after the Flames' 6-3 pinball game against the Detroit Red Wings. "I can see it, how much the fans appreciate hockey, how much they love hockey.

"Since the first day I signed here they were so good to me. So now I have to try to play my best.'

In truth, he almost looked slightly embarrassed at the ease of it, slotting a picture-postcard-perfect 2-on-1 pass from Johnny Gaudreau upstairs on Petr Mzarek.

"Well,'' he deadpanned, "I'm not exactly 18 anymore, so …

"I don't think about that. For me, it's just important to go on the ice and be a factor for our team.

"For our team to go somewhere, to be an elite team in the league, the third and fourth lines have to start scoring. We're not going to get much powerplay time, so we just have to make sure we play good 5-on-5, and we're plus, and that's what we did today."

Video: Jagr talks about his big night

Somewhat lost in the glare of Jagr's first goal as a Flame, centre Mark Jankowski's first career snipe and Sam Bennett tallying his first point of the season was another star-spangled turn by Gaudreau, now up to 22 points after a two-goal, one-helper night that jumped him up into third spot on the Art Ross Trophy race.

If anyone knows special when he sees it, Jagr would be the man.

"I told him he's just got such a great talent, it's up to him how far he can take it,'' he said of Gaudreau. "With his talent, he can win the scoring every year.

"It's just up to him.

"He's so quick. So good 1-on-1. He always keeps skating. It's tough to shut him down 1-on-1. 

"When he's skating like this, it's kinda impossible. And if you double-team him, he always finds somebody open."

Jagr rounded out a memorable night by also assisting on Jankowski's highly-anticipated first career NHL marker, whipping a wrist shot that Mrazek bunted out, the puck bouncing off the inside of the freshman centre's hockey pants and into the Red Wings' net.

"It's a special feeling,'' said Jankowski, grinning like a TV game-show host. "Scoring your first NHL goal is something you're dreamed about your whole life, every since you were a little kid and wanted to play in the NHL.

"To have him get the assist on it just brings it up even more. Just a really cool moment I'll never forget.

"When you hear your named called (by the PA announcer) you're trying hard not to smile and just stay focused, stay serious.

"His was about three times louder.

"Pretty crazy. He's a legend. It's pretty incredible how good he still is, at his age."

Video: Jankowski talks about his historic night

Posing for photos holding their keepsake pucks in the dressing room aftewards, Jagr was all smiles.

"Too bad you can't save the stick,'' he kidded his 22-years-junior linemate, "because you didn't score with the stick.

"Save the pants."

The Jagr Effect was palpable.

"There was a real lively attitude on the bench,'"LIVING LEGEND agreed coach Glen Gulutzan. "Guys were liking Jags' big-time shifts. We need that moving forward. This league gets hard, it's close every night. You need guys to be confident and have a little fun.

"I don't think Jags felt … heat. He looks pretty calm. He's got a lot of points.

"But if I'm Janks, I'm pretty happy my first goal is from Jaromir Jagr. I think that's pretty special."

At 11 p.m., an hour and a half after game's end and No. 68 had taken a spin as the No. 1 star to a rapturous ovation, with the Scotiabank Saddledome all but emptied out, one later-leaver couldn't help but unleash one final "Let's goooooo Jagggggggggr …" in tribute.

One of those nights you just didn't want to end.

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