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Jagr captains Atlantic, scores in 2016 All-Star Game

Veteran forward appreciates 2016 All-Star Weekend experience

by Arpon Basu @arponbasu / LNH.com Managing Editor

NASHVILLE - Jaromir Jagr wasn't sure if he wanted to make the trip to Nashville.

The 43-year-old forward, who turns 44 on Feb. 15, wanted to take the time to get himself physically ready for the rest of the season. His Florida Panthers (29-15-5) are in first place in the Atlantic Division and are looking to make the postseason for the first time since 2011-12.

When it was all said and done, Jagr, Atlantic Division captain, was glad he played in the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game. He backchecked and scored a highlight-reel goal with 38 seconds left in the first half of the Atlantic Division's first game on Sunday.

"I said before that I'd like to stay home and practice, get ready for the last 30 games," Jagr said. "But it was fun, no question about it."

Video: MET@ATL: Jagr nets breakaway to even game at 2

That's about as big of an endorsement as you could get for the event's new format this season, a 3-on-3 tournament replacing the standard game that was played in the past.

"Even the game was pretty good, actually," Jagr said. "I was kind of surprised. Defensively, everyone wanted to win it."
Ultimately, Jagr's Atlantic Division team lost 1-0 in the final against the Pacific Division, what he safely assumed must have been an All-Star Game record for fewest goals scored.

When the weekend began, his Panthers teammate Roberto Luongo wasn't convinced Jagr would show until he saw him in Nashville.
"We weren't sure if he was even on the plane on Thursday, so that was a nice surprise right off the bat," Luongo said. "I even think I saw him backcheck once today, which he doesn't even do in Florida. I don't know, I might have to have a chat with him on the way home."

Jagr backchecked on a breakaway by Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin during the first game, attempting to lift the stick just before Malkin slid the puck behind Luongo. 

He was a little late, but Luongo insisted it was the thought that counts.

"Hey, he came back," Luongo said. "That's all that matters."

Jagr's Atlantic Division teammates also got a small opportunity to see what his Panthers teammates get to experience every day, having a living legend in the dressing room.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban could only think of one word to describe it.

"Yeah, sick. Sick," Subban said. "It's pretty high up there in hockey memories for me. It was really, really cool."

Subban repeated what several other Atlantic Division All-Stars mentioned, that they were most impressed watching Jagr prepare himself to play, even if it was an All-Star Game. Subban, who paid his respects to Jagr by dressing up as him during the All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, even got a bit shy talking about Jagr's stature as a player.

"He's got this kind of aura to him, you know? He's Jaromir Jagr," Subban said. "It's pretty sick."

Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson's face lit up when asked what it was like to play with Jagr and just be around him for a few days.

Karlsson admitted that some players were a bit tentative just going up to Jagr and chatting with him simply because of that aura Subban mentioned, but Jagr did everything he could to erase that awkwardness.

"I think he has so much respect from everybody at so many different levels it's a little bit tense sometimes," Karlsson said. "But at the same time he's a normal guy and he was treating everybody the same way."

Karlsson cherished the short period of time he got to share with Jagr this weekend.

"He's a class guy," Karlsson said. "It was nice to not only get to play against him, but actually play with him too, even if it's just an All-Star Game. It's something I'm very happy I got the chance to do."

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