Stars fans have been eagerly awaiting the Dallas debut of Jaromir Jagr since he signed with the team last July. Jagr made that debut a memorable one, picking up two goals and two assists as the Stars defeated Phoenix, 4-3, Saturday night at American Airlines Center in the season opener for both clubs.
“It was special. The first game is always special,” Jagr said. “It was strange. We only had one week in training camp and I’ve got to get used to the new teammates. We didn’t have a chance to play any games in the preseason.”
The Stars couldn’t have asked for a better performance from Jagr and the team’s other key offseason acquisitions. Ray Whitney had a goal and an assist and Derek Roy chipped in an assist. But this night belonged to Jagr, who had fans buzzing and his teammates as well.
“You see a guy who’s got five scoring titles, won Stanley Cups before, he’s done everything in this league but he still wants to compete and is still enjoying the game,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “It’s pretty amazing what he’s doing out there.”
Even the Coyotes had to tip their hat to Jagr, who registered his first four-point game in the NHL since February 2008, when he had four assists as a New York Ranger in a game against Montreal.
“Well, he’s a heck of a player,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of Jagr. “You give him some opportunities like that he’s going to capitalize. We gave him a couple of real quality ones and he found the back of the net.”
It didn’t take Jagr long to bring Stars fans to the edge of their seats, breaking in on net with Dallas on the power play early in the game. That scoring bid failed, but Jagr did score late in the first to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. After a Phoenix turnover, Loui Eriksson sent Jagr busting in on net and this time Jagr buried the chance.
“The first time I tried to deke it and lost the puck” Jagr said. “The second time, Loui made a great play. He made a turnover, passed me the puck and all I was thinking is this time I am going to shoot it.”
After Phoenix scored twice on the power play in the second to take a 2-1 lead, Jagr struck on the power play late in the second to tie the game, scoring on a shot from the left circle.
He setup a Ray Whitney power play goal early in the third period to put the Stars ahead, 3-2. After Radim Vrbata tied it for the Coyotes, Jagr set up Eriksson’s game winner. Jagr corralled the rebound of a Derek Roy shot and backhanded the puck to Eriksson, who scored from the slot with 6:55 remaining.
“Too bad they signed him (Jagr). If they wouldn’t have had him tonight, we might have got a win,” said Vrbata. “I’m a Czech guy and I know what he does.”
And on Saturday night the Stars and their fans got a chance to see what Jagr does, and it added up to an impressive debut.
“I don’t think you could ask for much more,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “A 4-3 win and four points from Jags. He’s a big reason we got two tonight.”
*Stars forward Reilly Smith left the game late in the third period. Coach Glen Gulutzan said Smith lost a tooth.
*Gulutzan said he was leaning towards starting Cristopher Nilstorp in Sunday’s game against Minnesota, but wanted to talk to Kari Lehtonen before making a final decision.
*The Stars won 33 of 68 faceoffs (49 percent) Saturday night. Derek Roy won 16 of 23 (70 percent), Vernon Fiddler won 11 of 15 (73 percent), Tom Wandell won 4 of 14 (29 percent) and Cody Eakin won 1 of 6 (17 percent).
*Stars defenseman Aaron Rome sat out the game with a groin injury. He is day-to-day.
*Forward Colton Sceviour was the lone healthy scratch for the Stars.