WASHINGTON - Only a day ago, Jaromir Jagr was saying how he might feel out of place if he were voted onto the NHL All-Star team, given his less-than-usual offensive production this season.
Yesterday afternoon, he learned he had indeed made the All-Star team. Last night, he went out and played like the Jaromir Jagr of old. The Capitals' biggest star scored his first hat trick since March 2001 while producing a seven-point game as the Capitals handed the Florida Panthers a 12-2 loss, their worst in franchise history.
It was Washington's most amazing game of the season, matching the team record for goals in a game and margin of victory set Feb. 6, 1990, in a 12-2 victory against Quebec. At the same time, Jagr's seven points tied his career-best game for points, which came Dec. 30, 1999, as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins against the New York Islanders. He tied the Capitals franchise record set by Dino Ciccarelli against Hartford on March 18, 1989.
Panthers owner Alan Cohen criticized the Capitals and coach Bruce Cassidy after the rout.
"You can be sure that if we were ever able to get a 6-0 lead, the Panthers will act with more class than has been shown by the Capitals and their coach," Cohen wrote in an e-mail to The Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale. "Most of these Florida players will be around a long time. It doesn't matter who wears a Washington uniform. We'll never forget."
Cassidy, however, rested Jagr in the third period.
"I wasn't concerned about records," Jagr said. "I didn't play at all in the third period. I know how they feel on the other side. It's not easy to play, down 10-2."
The 12 goals, including three on the power play by Robert Lang, Michael Nylander and Peter Bondra, came against Florida starting goalie Jani Hurme and reliever Roberto Luongo.
"We were due for a breakout game," Cassidy said. "But it all came on the same night. This will help get our guys' noses up, get their confidence back."
Earlier this week, the Capitals talked about how they had yet to hit their full stride. They had rejoiced in the good fortune that team play had turned their season around and moved them from 12th place in the Eastern Conference into seventh place. But everyone from Cassidy to defenseman Calle Johansson, who missed most of this game with a sore back, wondered when the team's big guns would begin to fire.
The first shot was fired Friday night in Carolina. While the team's role players produced the major offense in that 4-1 victory, Bondra scored for the first time in six games. And last night against the Panthers, Jagr, Lang (a goal, two assists), Dainius Zubrus and Bondra (two goals, one assist) all scored.
While they cluttered the scoreboard, there was still room for goals from forwards Steve Konowalchuk and Nylander and defensemen Sergei Gonchar (one goal, three assists) and Jason Doig, who had not scored since the first shift of his first career game Oct. 7, 1995.
Helping to produce those goals was Kip Miller, who tied his career high with four assists.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.