Jaromir Jagr’s latest milestone played a part in a post-Olympic scoring surge for the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils try to build on that performance as they attempt to match their longest win streak of the season by topping the visiting San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
Jagr became the seventh player to reach 700 goals and assisted on one of New Jersey’s four second-period scores in Saturday’s 6-1 rout of the New York Islanders. The Devils (26-22-13) have outscored their first two opponents since the Olympic break 11-3, with Jagr scoring twice.
The 42-year-old forward needs one more score for his first season with 20-plus goals since he had 25 for the New York Rangers in 2007-08. He left to play in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League after that season and didn’t return to the NHL until 2011-12 with Philadelphia.
With team highs of 19 goals and 52 points, Jagr is on pace for easily his best season since coming back to the league. He’ll try to pad his totals while helping New Jersey win three in a row for the first time since Nov. 16-21.
"We’re playing three (games) in four nights. It’s a big game for us," said Jagr, whose team is three points behind Detroit for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot. "We just need to play the same way, keep scoring, and make it a lot easier on our defense and goalies."
Their last three-game streak ended with a 2-1 loss in San Jose on Nov. 23. Scott Hannan and Tyler Kennedy each scored in the first period for the Sharks, and only a Patrik Elias goal with 11:50 remaining spoiled a potential shutout for Antti Niemi, who needed to stop just 18 shots.
San Jose outshot New Jersey 30-19 and 21-10 in the first two periods. Martin Brodeur was in net for the Devils and played for the first time in eight contests Saturday.
Brodeur, who is among the players rumored to be on the trading block before Wednesday’s deadline, hadn’t started since being pulled from a 7-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Jan. 26 at Yankee Stadium.
Cory Schneider posted a 1.84 goals-against average in starting the previous seven games and is expected to get the call in this one with the Devils playing on back-to-back days. Schneider is 0-4-1 with a 3.59 GAA in his last five games against San Jose, including two in last year’s first-round playoff loss with Vancouver.
The Sharks head into the finale of a three-game trip after having a three-game win streak snapped with a 4-2 loss to Buffalo on Friday. They outshot the Sabres 31-13 in the first two periods but only netted one goal.
Buffalo scored three times in the final period and tallied two goals in the first 7:39 of the frame.
"We knew they’d be ready," forward Joe Pavelski said. "We had our chances to score early and we didn’t, fell behind, climbed back and just didn’t turn the corner like we needed to."
The Sharks opened their trip with a 7-3 rout of Philadelphia on Thursday and Pavelski led the way with his second career hat trick. The center, third in the league with 32 goals, was a member of the United States team that eliminated Jagr’s Czech Republic in the Olympic quarterfinals.
San Jose is making its first trip to New Jersey since a 4-3 shootout win Oct. 21, 2011. The Devils had won the previous five home matchups.