Following Saturday's 3-0 victory over the Rangers, 43-year-old future Hall of Fame forward Jaromir Jagr was clearly disgusted with his performance.
Jagr's torrid top line had no points and he had no shots on net. So after the maintenance crew cleared the ice of dozens of rubber rats, there was No. 68, a solitary figure skating by himself in an empty arena.
Jagr's legend continued to grow Sunday evening when he scored twice to propel the somewhat flat Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild to extend their franchise-record winning streak to nine games and complete a franchise-perfect 6-0 homestand.
"I didn't feel good about my game. I didn't help my linemates [Friday],'' Jagr said about his late-night skate. "But we won. That's the bottom line. I wanted to make sure I was better tonight.''
The nine-game streak matches the longest in the NHL this season, tying the Canadiens, Capitals and Rangers. The high-flying Panthers have won 15 of 18 to pad their first-place lead in the Atlantic Division to three points over the idle Canadiens.
Whether it's Roberto Luongo or Al Montoya minding the net, the Panthers' defense has been stellar during the streak as they have outscored opponents 30-11.
"It's about giving this team a chance to win every night. It doesn't matter what the score is,'' said Montoya, who has allowed one goal in each of his last five starts as he notched his career-tying fourth victory in a row after recording 38 saves.
"You don't win this many in a row without getting bounces and having guys step up every single night.''
After a light practice scheduled for Monday, the Panthers embark on a season-long six-game road trip that begins with the slumping Sabres Tuesday.
Tied at 1-1 after two, a couple of Wild defensemen got caught pinching that led to a 3-on-2 breakout led by defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. Brandon Pirri sent the puck to Jagr, who weaved his way in before unleashing a sweeping wrist shot from the high slot past Devan Dubnyk at 8:52 for his third game-winning goal this season and NHL-record 132nd of his career.
Jagr has a team-leading 13 goals and his 735 career goals moves him within six of tying Brett Hull for third on the all-time list.
Before the fans could get dry from an early-evening downpour, Kulikov skated through the neutral zone and sent Jagr a backhand pass. He backhanded it through the wickets of Dubnyk for a 1-0 lead just 27 seconds in.
Jagr's goal was the fastest of the season for the Panthers, eclipsing his goal against the Capitals on Dec. 10 that came at 51 seconds. Kulikov assisted on both of Jagr's goals and linemate Jonathan Huberdeau added his team-leading 22nd assist.
"He was in front so you better give it to him,'' Kulikov said. "The way the game started, scoring on the first shift I didn't think the game would go the way it went. … They put us on our heels and we were chasing, but we found a way to win.''
The sign of elite teams is to win on nights they don't play their best. The Wild outshot Florida 38-28 and dominated the faceoff circle 43-26, while killing off all five of the Panthers' power plays. However, the Panthers did snuff out all of Minnesota's four power plays, too.
"We looked like a tired bunch for some reason, whether we were mentally tired or not but we found a way to win and that was huge,'' Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said.
The Wild (20-11-7), who had won both meetings last season, scored just 48 seconds into the second period on Jason Zucker's rebound goal in front to forge a 1-1 tie that stood until Jagr decided matters.
Jagr on All-Star nod
Jagr was one of four players voted to be a captain at the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 31 in Nashville.
"I asked the fans don't vote for me; they didn't listen,'' Jagr kidded. "I think they don't like me much. They want to see me dead. I probably have to go. I don't know what the rules are. Probably the fans think I need to get into shape and I don't deserve the rest. Everybody else has a vacation; I got to play 3-on-3.''
Before Sunday's game, Gallant smiled at a reporter's question about second-line center Nick Bjugstad ruining the chemistry achieved during the team's record eight-game winning streak with his return after missing the last 15 games with migraines.
"I don't care if we won 15 in a row he's going to be in our lineup,'' Gallant said.
Bjugstad played on the third line with Pirri and Logan Shaw. He played just with no shots on goal and was 3-6 on faceoffs.
"I'd have a tough time living with that,'' Bjugstad said if the team had lost upon his return. "It's good having the old guy, Jags, step up like that.