Jaromir Jagr is a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and world championship winner. He has a Hart Trophy, five Art Ross Trophies and multiple NHL records to his credit.
But for years, he was known as “Mario Jr.”, and not just because it was an anagram of his first name. He played, and he existed, in the shadow of Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.
On Thursday, Jagr, 41, finally matched his former Pittsburgh Penguins mentor’s career goals total with 690, ninth all-time, on this beautiful game-winner in overtime, as the New Jersey Devils defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 2-1.
Marek Zidlicky started the play on the left wing, drawing two Kings defenders. Dustin Brown left him to mark a Devils forward, but guessed wrong on Jagr’s path to the goal: Brown swung wide, Jagr cut to the middle. Zidlicky hit him with a pass, and Jagr glided in front of goalie Ben Scrivens, flipping the puck over his pad for the game-winner.
The goal tied him with Lemieux in game No. 1,412 of his career. Of course, Jagr's had the longevity Mario didn't have, playing just 915 games. So Lemieux still beats him in goals-per-game average, handily.
It was Jagr’s ninth goal of the season, and his fourth goal in four games for the Devils. It’s his 18th career OT goal in the NHL, the most in League history.
More importantly, it finally tied him with Gordie Howe for the NHL lead for career game-winning goals with 121, after a false alarm last month.
When asked if he’d send his game stick to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jagr said: “I’ve got to use it next game. It’s a pretty good stick actually. I was pretty lucky with that stick”
Howe retired in 1980 at age 51. At the rate Jagr’s going, he might break that record, too. As he told the Bergen Record, "He played til 50, so I’ve got nine years to go."