With only a few seconds to work with and a faceoff in the offensive zone, Jaromir Jagr was basically a player/coach for the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
Moments before the draw, Jagr told defenseman Marek Zidlicky where to position himself. Travis Zajac won the faceoff back to Jagr, who quickly fed Zidlicky for a one-timer with 2.1 seconds left in overtime to give the Devils a 2-1 victory against the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center.
With the assist, Jagr passed Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux on the NHL all-time points list with 1,724. Lemieux scored 1,723 points in 915 games. Jagr passed him in his 1,437th regular-season game.
Jagr, who turns 42 next month, has 11 points more than any Devils teammate (36; 13 goals, 23 assists).
"I wanted him to be a little bit closer," Jagr said of moving Zidlicky. "If he's far away, the forward's coming so it's going to take a longer time to get it. He's got a good one-timer, so I just want to make sure he's close enough."
Michael Ryder scored in the first period and Cory Schneider made 29 saves for the Devils (19-18-9), who went 2-0-1 on a three-game homestand. New Jersey begins a four-game road trip Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I can tell you we draw up a thousand faceoff plays over the course of a season and they very rarely work," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. "You either lose a draw or you don't get a bounce. The credit was to the execution. Zajac, Jagr and Zid and [Steve] Bernier did a great job."
"We didn't play well. They outplayed us most of the game," Florida interim coach Peter Horachek said. "We had some scoring chances, but we were terrible in our own zone. We gave up a lot of chances, a lot of weren't playing [and] didn't compete. We scratched a point out of it. Timmy Thomas played well and kept us in it. You get a point out of something you didn't deserve."
Ryder gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead 15:22 into the game. With the teams at even strength, Ryane Clowe stripped Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson of the puck behind the net and backhanded it front to Ryder, who snapped a shot past Thomas for his 16th goal of the season. Ryder extended his goal streak to four games, and Clowe made it three straight with an assist.
Each team had nine shots on goal in the first period.
Thomas prevented New Jersey from doubling its lead with 9:30 to play in the second when he made two fantastic saves on Devils forward Adam Henrique. After the Devils won a faceoff in the offensive zone, Bryce Salvador wristed a shot from the point that Thomas denied. Henrique collected the rebound and tried to backhand it past Thomas, but the goaltender sprawled across the crease and managed to get a glove on Henrique's shot. Henrique had a second chance from the bottom of the right circle and fired a wrist shot that Thomas gobbled up and held until play was stopped.
"We think we can play a lot better," Thomas said. "We're happy that somehow we eked out a point, but we can play better than that. We have played better than that. We're disappointed with the way overall that we played."
Bjugstad tied it for Florida at 11:54. The rookie, who had gone five straight games without a point, redirected a cross-ice feed from Tomas Fleischmann past Schneider to make it 1-1. It was Bjugstad's ninth goal of the season. Scottie Upshall, who had gone seven games without a point, picked up the secondary assist.
Schneider was forced to make a big save for the Devils in the final minute of regulation when a turnover by Jon Merrill led to a chance in the slot for Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim, but Schneider denied his quick wrister to send the game to overtime. Each team had 13 shots on goal in the third period.
"What an ending," Schneider said. "I'm not sure anybody thought that we were going to score off that faceoff. ... We were I think very deserving of a bounce like that and I think it's a big win for us, so we'll take it."
DeBoer said after the game that Schneider will get the start again Sunday in Toronto. It will be the second time this season and first since Oct. 19-24 that Schneider, who lowered his goals-against average to 1.97, has started three consecutive games.
Material from team media was used in this report