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Panthers' Jagr scores winner against Devils

by Steve Gorten /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Facing his former team for the first time since he was traded in February, Jaromir Jagr scored the go-ahead goal to give the Florida Panthers a 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils at BB&T Center on Saturday.

The 43-year-old, who spurred the Panthers' playoff push that ended with three games left in the season, poked in a rebound of his own shot at 12:53 of the third period.

"It's a tough game to play, both teams are out of the playoffs," Jagr said. "But we played for our fans. We wanted to win. If you have to be here, you make sure you enjoy it, and we did. I'm glad we won."

Jagr's 204th career power-play goal tied Wayne Gretzky for 14th most in NHL history. Earlier in the period, Jagr claimed sole possession of sixth place for career assists (1,080).

Huberdeau's strong finish to this season, four goals and seven assists in the past 10 games, came while playing with Jagr on a top line that also included Aleksander Barkov.

"He's playing with two great young players," Devils winger Patrik Elias said. "They make a lot happen for him. I'm sure he's going to be the first to admit that. [Barkov and Huberdeau] have great speed and they're skilled. It suits his game."

Jagr had six goals and 12 assists in 20 games with the Panthers, including 14 points (five goals) in the final 13 games.

"We don't look at his age," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We look at his production. And he's been very good for us.

"We deserve to finish the season off in the right way. Some big guys scored some big goals for us."

Jagr's performance Saturday helped the Panthers reach 90 points for a season (38-29-15, 91 points) for the fifth time in franchise history, but he downplayed that his winning goal came against the Devils.

"Just wanted to have fun," he said. "I don't press anything."

Asked about his desire to sign a contract with the Panthers, the pending free agent joked, "It's getting close. I want 10 million. They're giving me one million."

"It’s getting very close," Jar said. "I feel like the team wants me here. I want to be here. I love this team. So I think it's going to happen pretty soon."

The Panthers finished with 25 more points than last season; the Devils closed the season losing 10 of 11 games.

"We were close and couldn't get it done in certain games," Devils co-coach Lou Lamoriello said. "I don’t feel good about it. We'll just have to make some decisions going forward."

The Devils had won the previous two games with the Panthers by a combined score of 8-2.

After a scoreless first period, the Devils scored 1:50 into the second period. Travis Zajac fed a pass to Jordin Tootoo, who shot a one-timer past goalie Al Montoya from the left circle. Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas got the second assist on Tootoo's 10th goal.

Panthers forward Dave Bolland tied the score at 11:08 of the second period and Johnathan Huberdeau scored his career-high 15th goal on a rebound of Jagr's shot at 7:59 of the third.

Devils defenseman Damon Severson tied the game 2-2 with 8:59 left on a short over Montoya's shoulder with the teams playing four-on-four.

Montoya started his first game since sustaining a groin injury March 3 against the Maple Leafs and made 31 saves; Roberto Luongo was given the night off.

"I put in a lot of work and I wanted to play this game," Montoya said. "So to do that and come out of here with a victory was huge. The guys played hard. We've had our backs against the wall for a while and showed a lot of resolve, so it’s a positive to take into the offseason."

Devils goalie Cory Schneider finished with 24 saves.

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