Every young hockey player dreams of scoring their first NHL goal.
For Marko Dano, it was everything he ever hoped it would be — and quite possibly even better.
In front of a sold-out crowd of 18,922 (the second largest for a home opener in Blue Jackets history), Dano didn't just score his first NHL goal. He just so happened to score a massive goal for his team when it was really needed against a top-notch opponent.
The Blue Jackets were leading 3-1 in the latter stages of the third period, but the Rangers - the defending Eastern Conference champions, a talented offensive team and a Metropolitan Division rival - don’t need many opportunities to make opponents pay.
Columbus needed another insurance marker, and Dano supplied it.
Dalton Prout took a shot from the right point, Rangers goalie Cam Talbot kicked the rebound into the slot, and Dano was in the right spot to find the puck on his stick and nothing but a wide open net to look at.
And just like that, a moment was created that he will never forget. To make it even better, Dano’s father and girlfriend were in Nationwide Arena to witness it.
“It was incredible,” Dano told BlueJackets.com. “The first thing I did was try to remember where my dad was sitting. I knew where my girlfriend was sitting and I blew her a kiss, and then I waved to my dad.
“It was a special moment for me that they could be here and see it.”
Just 19 years old and playing his second career game, Dano made quite an impact for the Blue Jackets and that was before his special moment. With the lineup battered by injuries to Brandon Dubinsky, Nathan Horton, Boone Jenner and Brian Gibbons up front, Columbus needs its kids to step up and so far, so good.
In Thursday’s season opener, rookie Alexander Wennberg played the third-most minutes among Blue Jackets forwards (behind line mates Artem Anisimov and Scott Hartnell) and Dano hasn’t been far behind in terms of earning the trust of the coaching staff.
“It’s a special moment for guys playing in their first NHL game at home,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “It’s great to see when these young guys get their first NHL goal, and it was a big goal for us.
“You’re always happy when you see the young guys score their first goal, but it makes it even more special when it’s an important goal.”
Dano started on a line with Mark Letestu and Matt Calvert on Saturday night and switched to playing with Michael Chaput and Jared Boll during the game, and his play has not dropped off from a strong performance in Traverse City that was backed up by more solid play in training camp and the preseason.
“Our line was playing well (on Saturday),” Dano said. “Prouter got the puck and he shot it through some bodies, and I found it on my stick and I tried to make a quick play. When I saw the puck go over the goal line, I was really happy and celebrated with my teammates.”