NHL legend Jaromir Jagr scored his last NHL goal – his 766th – at the Saddledome as a member of the Calgary Flames. It was fitting that Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin joined Jagr in third place on the all-time goal-scoring list with a pair of goals in a 5-4 win over the Flames on Tuesday night.
Ovechkin scored a tying goal in the second period and added an insurance goal that turned out to be the winner late in the third to beat the Flames, ending a remarkable unbeaten streak on home ice on the second half of a back-to-back.
“He’s a goal-scorer,” said Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, summing it up simply and accurately. “That’s what he does.”
A game after eking out a tough Battle of Alberta victory over the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames got off to a good start against the Capitals. They scored the game’s first two goals, with Elias Lindholm and Adam Ruzicka giving the home side a nice lead.
But they ran out of steam as the Caps took control over in the third period. Conor Sheary and Ovechkin scored to tie it. After Oliver Kylington gave the Calgary Flames the lead again in the first few minutes of the final frame, the Caps scored three straight to go up 5-3.
They hung on as the Flames pressed in the dying seconds after Lindholm scored his second of the night with an extra man on the ice to make it interesting.
Ovechkin nearly passed Jagr with a hat-trick, missing out on a second empty net goal and looking skyward in disbelief.
As Sutter said earlier in the day, nothing surprises you about Ovechkin anymore.
Talk around the matchup against the Capitals inevitably spun to their superstar Russian after the morning skate.
Reporters lobbed a couple of questions Sutter’s way about the invasion of Ukraine, and the expected reception Ovechkin would receive in Calgary.
The Flames head coach wanted nothing to do with the mixture of politics and players, but he raved about the veteran’s march up the list of the NHL’s all-time goal-scorers.
“He’s still, to me, the Rocket Richard player. His game has changed but he’s still the most dangerous player in the league when it comes to (certain) areas of the ice. I have a lot of respect for him,” said the Calgary Flames head coach.
“He’s accomplished everything he’s had to for his career. You look at international, you look at longevity, you look at goals, you look at being a captain – not just being a captain but leading a team to a championship – that’s the whole package.”
The 36-year-old drew comparisons from a former Sutter favourite, Jarome Iginla, who modified his offseason preparation and his play to adapt to the changing game.
“Nothing surprises you about that player anymore,” Sutter said. “He signed a five-year deal because he’s going to score another 250 goals.”
But is he the greatest goal-scorer the NHL has seen?
“Not til he passes those guys,” Sutter said of Jagr, Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky.
It seems like just a matter of time.