A milestone game for Jaromir Jagr of the New Jersey Devils turned into another losing game for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Jagr, still a hockey force at 42, had a goal and an assist Monday as the Devils stopped the Canes 2-1 at PNC Arena.
To be sure, the Devils badly needed a big game in net from goaltender Cory Schneider, who delivered with a sparkling 39-save performance. But this night, the spotlight was on Jagr.
Playing his 1,500th career NHL game, Jagr tied the score 1-1 in the second period. Late in the period, on a New Jersey power play, he deftly found Adam Henrique open in front of the net for what proved to be the winner.
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The Hurricanes again had enough shots — 40 in all, including a third period when Carolina outshot New Jersey 17-1. But one goal was all Schneider allowed as the Canes dropped four of five in what they considered a vital five-game homestand in a season quickly going awry.
“I don’t know if it was a hot goaltender, just self-inflicted wounds,” Canes coach Bill Peters said of the loss.
The Canes (8-16-3) led 1-0 in the second period after defenseman Justin Faulk scored on a shot between the circles. But two key mistakes by Carolina quickly became New Jersey goals.
After defenseman Ron Hainsey turned the puck over in the Carolina zone, the Devils’ Scott Gomez found Jagr open in the slot and he hammered a shot past Canes goalie Cam Ward.
The Canes later had a power play in the second, only to be penalized for too many men on the ice. Jagr took a pass from Gomez, skated behind the Carolina net and passed to Henrique, who scored with 13.4 seconds left in the period for the 2-1 lead.
“It’s disappointing. It’s too good a league to give up freebies, and we gave up two freebies tonight,” Peters said.
Jagr, who once had Canes general manager Ron Francis as a teammate with the Pittsburgh Penguins, now has 1,772 career points. He moved past Marcel Dionne into fifth place on the NHL’s all-time points list and has 710 career goals.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Gomez said. “The guy knows how to get open and can still dominate a hockey game. To think of the numbers, it’s just incredible but he’d tell you we got the two points and that was the main thing.”
The Canes were not sure whether captain Eric Staal would play. Staal took a shot off a foot late in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings and was on crutches after the game.
Staal moved gingerly through the morning skate Monday, but he played 19 minutes. The center was used on the wing during the third period, and Peters said he may consider other changes in an attempt to wake up the Canes’ anemic offense.
Carolina had 40 shots on goal, another 33 that were blocked and 21 attempts that missed the net. Defenseman Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky each had seven blocks for the Devils (11-13-4), who had lost six of their past seven.
The Devils left a number of injured or sick players in New Jersey, including forwards Patrik Elias, Mike Cammalleri and Travis Zajac, and defenseman Adam Larsson.
Scheider, a workhorse for the Devils, was making his 27th appearance of the season. The Canes pulled Ward in the final two minutes of regulation and peppered Schneider with shots, but couldn’t find the net.
“We’re going to look back on this and regret it for sure,” Peters said of the 1-4 homestand.
As for solving the Canes’ offensive problems, Peters called it the “million-dollar question.”
The Canes play the next three on the road before returning to PNC Arena on Dec. 18 to face the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We need guys to take a good, long look in the mirror and dig in,” Peters said.