Jaromir Jagr was already in his eighth NHL season when Matthew Tkachuk was born in 1997, and the 45-year-old star felt all of those extra years when he began his 24th season in the league with the Calgary Flames.
His new teenage teammate played a major role in getting him a win.
Tkachuk scored two goals before Sean Monahan got the winner 1:02 into overtime during the Flames’ 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.
The second-leading scorer in league history nearly scored on his opening shift of a solid debut with the Flames, his ninth NHL team.
“I didn’t feel very well, but I expected that,” Jagr said. “Hopefully next game, I’ll feel better. … After my legs come back, it’s going to be a little bit different.”
With a knowing grimace, Jagr said the game got “a little bit harder” as it went along: “I didn’t play for five, six months, and now I’m 45.”
Although he didn’t record a shot on goal during his 15 shifts, Jagr spent time on the power play and earned more ice time than coach Glen Gulutzan initially planned to give him.
Despite those weary legs, Jagr is already encouraged by his first experience with his dynamic new team, which has won three of its first four games. Mike Smith made 42 saves as the Flames rallied past the Kings in a physical effort led by Tkachuk, who scrapped with Drew Doughty and goalie Jonathan Quick in between his goal-scoring exploits.
Take it to the limit
“The expectation is very high, and it should be,” Jagr said. “There’s a lot of great offensive players. The defence is fantastic. They can move the puck. It’s great. It’s up to us how far we can go.”
Jagr posted a 46-point campaign with Florida last season, and he had several teams interested in him. The Czech star eventually signed a one-year, $1 million US deal with Calgary and debuted one week later.
“It’s the next step in his way back here after [starting] without a training camp,” Gulutzan said. “Because you can’t simulate what he got here tonight in those 13 minutes. … We’re going to build. His game is going to come, but this is a building block to get into some real fire.”
And Jagr’s new teammates are thrilled by his presence.
“He’s got so much patience out there,” Monahan said. “[Jagr’s line] had some shifts where it felt like they had the puck for two minutes. It was a great start, and it’s only going to get better.”