Boston's Brad Marchand, New Jersey's Brad Mills, Carolina's Jon Matsumoto and Anaheim's Kyle Palmieri all scored their first NHL goals Wednesday night in their teams' victories.
Matsumoto had the biggest night, scoring twice in his second NHL game. The 6-foot, 184-pound center was leading the AHL Charlotte Checkers in scoring when he was recalled Sunday. Wednesday, he played on the Canes' fourth line, along with Sergei Samsonov and Tom Kostopoulos. The trio combined for 2 goals, 5 assists and a plus-9 rating in Carolina's 7-2 victory.
"He's not going to score two every night, but if he can play well in his own end, then we can take some pressure off the (Eric) Staal line and some of these other lines so they don't have to play 22 minutes every night," coach Paul Maurice said of Matsumoto.
Matsumoto became the fourth rookie to have a multi-goal game this season, joining the Rangers' Derek Stepan, the Flames' Mikael Backlund, and Carolina teammate Jeff Skinner.
Palmieri had a day he'll never forget. Called up from AHL Syracuse the night before, his cross-country flight got him into Anaheim at 12:30 a.m. When he got to practice Wednesday morning, he watched Tampa skate and while watching Martin St. Louis practice, he remarked, "I grew up watching him."
Hours later, he knocked in a Bobby Ryan pass at 15:40 of the third period to tie the game, which the Ducks ended up winning 3-2 in overtime.
"It was unbelievable," said Palmieri, who was leading the AHL with 7 goals prior to his call-up. "I was so excited. The whole play seemed like it was slow developing. I saw the puck come across from Bobby. It squirted around to my stick. He banked it off me. I didn't have to do much. It was unbelievable. To explain, I really don't have any words right now. It hasn't really sunk in. Right now, I'm just excited."
Marchand had 20 games of NHL experience entering the season without scoring, and played his first eight games this season without lightning the lamp. But with the Bruins killing a penalty just 2:49 into the game, he turned a Buffalo turnover into a breakaway, and he beat rookie Jhonas Enroth for the first goal of what turned into a 5-2 victory by the Bruins.
A prolific scorer in junior and the AHL, scoring had not come at the NHL level for Marchand, who has been centering the team's fourth line.
"It's been real frustrating that it wasn't getting in," he said after the game. "I knew I had to just bear down and it would come eventually."
"He's been a pretty steady player in the game," added coach Claude Julien. "You've seen him on the penalty kill, you've seen his energy on the forecheck. He's really complemented that line with (Shawn) Thornton and (Gregory) Campbell very well. The three of them seem to have good chemistry, have given us a line we can rely on and also can set the tone for games."
With all the negativity surrounding the Devils -- no Zach Parise, losing goalie Martin Brodeur (bruised elbow) and an early 2-0 lead Wednesday night -- it was Mills, a 27-year-old rookie playing in his third NHL game, who lifted the New Jersey to its most impressive victory of the season, a 5-3 defeat of the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in Chicago.
With 3:01 remaining in the third period of a 2-2 game, Jamie Langenbrunner found Mills driving to the net. Mills' first attempt never made it to the goal, but he stayed with it and from a sharp angle banked the puck off Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco and into the net for the go-ahead goal.
"I was so excited. The whole play seemed like it was slow developing. I saw the puck come across from Bobby. It squirted around to my stick. He banked it off me. I didn't have to do much. It was unbelievable."
-- Kyle Palmieri
"I don't really care how they go in or when they go in," he added. "They're all nice, but it's special when you come up with a big goal in a clutch moment like that."
It might not be the prettiest first-ever goal, but like the three other players who scored their first NHL goals Wednesday, it will remain just as memorable.
"It will probably get embellished a little bit along the way," Mills said. "Each re-telling will get a little more grandiose. It's not necessarily how I envisioned it, but I'll take it."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org