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Devils' Jagr passes Messier for 7th on goals list

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Some people may look at Jaromir Jagr's career NHL statistics and wonder what could have been.

To those people, Jagr says don't bother. He doesn't.

Jagr passed another milestone is his prolific NHL career Tuesday when he scored his 695th goal in a 4-1 New Jersey Devils win against the Montreal Canadiens, passing Mark Messier for seventh place on the League's all-time goals list.

Jagr scored at 17:23 of the first period with a nice move to the middle around Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges before putting a low shot through a crowd past Carey Price just inside the far post.

Jaromir Jagr
Right Wing - NJD
G: 695 | A: 1031 | PTS: 1726
Jagr said he doesn't think much about the history he has the potential of making every time he steps on the ice because the thought of retirement hasn't entered his mind despite being 41 years old.

Many people could be tempted to look at Jagr's three years spent playing with Avangard Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League from 2008-11 and wonder how much higher his NHL numbers would be.

"Every time I make a decision I don't look back. It wouldn't help me anyway," Jagr said when asked Tuesday if he regretted the decision. "You don't know what would happen if I didn't go there. Maybe I wouldn't be playing right now. Maybe I wouldn't have that fun. You cannot just take that time and say it would be better if I stayed; it doesn't work like that.

"I made the decision, I left, and maybe because I missed it so much I'm a different player and I enjoy it more and I'm still playing. Maybe I wouldn't be playing anymore. I think I wouldn't be playing anymore."

Not only is Jagr still playing, he is doing so at a high level.

His goal Tuesday was his 14th of the season, putting him on pace to finish with 23 in 82 games. If Jagr were to do that he would fall just short of Mike Gartner's career total of 708, which is sixth all-time.

But because Jagr says he has no intention of retiring, he would have next season to pass Gartner and maybe even challenge Phil Esposito's total of 717 in fifth place.

Jagr has scored 49 goals in 166 games since returning to the NHL in 2011 at age 39, six fewer than the 55 he scored in 164 games over the final two seasons of his first NHL stint from 2006-08.

Jagr is convinced that had he stayed in the NHL he would not have had the energy to continue producing on a consistent basis, and maybe his career numbers would have suffered as a result.

"I had fun over there," Jagr said. "Maybe I was too tired. It's not easy. I always love the pressure, but if you have it for 80 games plus playoffs for 18, 19 years, and everybody expects you to score all the time, sooner or later you're going to get tired. Maybe I was too tired, mentally not physically. But maybe it helped those three years I left in Russia."

Jagr's conditioning regimen since his return to the NHL has added to his legendary status, with players 10 or 15 years younger struggling to keep up with his workouts. That, too, is something Jagr learned during his time in Russia, and he is reaping the benefits of it today.

"The way I look at it, I was playing on the big ice, I was playing 25 minutes [a game] on the big ice, and I think that was great practice for me," Jagr said. "You play 80 games on the big ice, it's tougher. The practices we had in Russia, in training camp, you did it for eight hours. That helped me too. It's a lot harder to practice over there, trust me."

Whenever Jagr decides to retire, and whatever his final numbers are, he may look back at a decision that appeared to hurt his NHL legacy as one that ultimately solidified it.

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