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My first NHL goal: Pierre-Luc Dubois

CBJ mainstay looks back at the memory of scoring in his NHL debut

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Scoring a goal at the NHL level is the dream of every young hockey player growing up. It's a memory that lasts forever, the culmination of a lifetime of hard work. 

Usually, players are asked about what it feels like at the time they score the goal, then while the memory lives on in the player, the story sort of fades away. Until now. 

BlueJackets.com is catching up with members of the CBJ universe to get their memories of their first NHL goals. 

It's become a tradition in the NHL. When a player scores his first career goal, someone makes sure to fish the puck out of the back of the net, and the team provides the player with a framed version of the piece of rubber to commemorate the occasion. 

Pierre-Luc Dubois knew all this. Yet, for a while, he was concerned.  

"After the game, they gave it to me for a picture and then I thought they lost it because I didn't get it for like a month after," Dubois says now with a laugh. "I was like, am I getting it back some day?" Of course, he did. 

"They put it in a really nice frame with a picture, who assisted on it, the day and all that stuff, so they did a really good job of framing it and then they gave it to me," Dubois said. "I think right now it's in my bedroom in Columbus." 

Video: NYI@CBJ: Dubois scores in his NHL debut

All of this happened in October 2017 when Dubois scored in his first NHL game, the season opener for the Blue Jackets that year when the 19-year-old made his debut. There was more than a little interest in how Dubois would fare, in part because he was a rookie but more so because of his credentials, as the Quebec native was the third overall pick in the 2016 draft after standouts Auston Matthews (Toronto) and Patrik Laine (Winnipeg).  

Even more intriguing was the fact he was chosen ahead of the presumed No. 3 choice going into the draft, as the Blue Jackets passed on Jesse Puljujarvi to take Dubois in a move that stunned much of the NHL establishment. 

After spending the next year in juniors, he came to camp the in the fall of 2017 with the Blue Jackets and immediately earned a spot. With Columbus coming off a franchise-best 50-win season, the opener Oct. 6 at Nationwide Arena vs. the New York Islanders was heavily anticipated, in part because of the debut of Dubois but also the Columbus unveiling of offseason trade acquisition Artemi Panarin. 

It was a dream start for everyone involved. Just 1:07 into the game, 2014 first-round pick Sonny Milano scored his first NHL goal to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead. Panarin would then assist on three straight goals by Cam Atkinson, Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski as Columbus built a 4-0 lead before Dubois' big moment came. 

New York's Jordan Eberle played the puck up the wall toward what appeared to be a vacant left point, but CBJ defenseman Seth Jones used his long reach to bat the puck diagonally back toward the net. As the puck landed at the top of the slot, Dubois -- who had been skating back to leave the zone -- curled back and found the puck on his stick with some space. As he entered the right circle, Dubois quickly fired a wrist shot that beat Thomas Greiss to the blocker to give Columbus a 5-0 lead at 11:50 of the second. 

Video: Pierre-Luc Dubois talks about his first NHL goal

"It's crazy," Dubois said looking back. "First of all, it's a dream come true. Playing your first game, just warming up and realizing after warmups, 'I'm actually going to play in my first game.' Then Sonny scores the first goal, that was his first NHL goal, then we score three more after so we were leading 4-0. 

"I think maybe one or two shifts before my goal, I had a 2-on-1 with (Brandon) Dubinsky and I shot it and the goalie stopped it, and I was like, there was my chance to score. There it was. I was telling myself that wasn't the only chance I'd get during the game, but that was a golden chance I just missed. 

"Then maybe one or two shifts later, Jonesy made a nice play to keep the puck in. It just bounced to me. I shot it and then I didn't know it went in right away. Then I saw the ref do the motion of the goal and I kind of just blacked out." 

The immediate excitement for Dubois included the traditional celebration with his teammates, and he boasted a huge smile as he went by the bench and exchanged fist bumps with the Blue Jackets players. 

Then, there was a second to enjoy the moment as the Islanders pulled Greiss for backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak. That gave Dubois a second to realize his parents, Jill and Eric, were sitting in the lower bowl and celebrating along with the Nationwide Arena crowd. 

"My parents were sitting across from the bench, so I remember looking and trying to find them in the stands," Dubois said. "To see them smiling and all that, scoring my first goal in my first game was a dream come true, but to have my family there definitely made it better." 

It was a charmed debut, but Dubois wouldn't score a goal again for another month, as the rookie went into an early-season scoring slump. But by the end of the year, he was a No. 1 center and a key piece of the Blue Jackets' machine, finishing his rookie season with 20 goals and 48 points, not to mention two more goals in a six-game first-round playoff series vs. Washington. 

Dubois added 27 goals in his second season and had a 18-31-49 line this year in 70 games to lead the Blue Jackets in scoring at the time of the coronavirus pause. At just 21, he's already scored 65 NHL goals and seems ticketed to add a heck of a lot more given his bright future. 

And it all started in game one with a memory he won't soon forget. 

"I kind of blacked out for a good chunk of that," Dubois said. "If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself to enjoy every moment of it. It's only going to happen once, but when you're living it for the first time, it goes by so fast and it's kind of like a blur. When you're a kid, for 18 years, you dream of it, and in a split-second it happens.  

"You don't really have time to enjoy it. It's just like the puck drops a minute later for the next faceoff and you're playing again. After the game, the guys congratulated me. They gave me the puck and all that. That's when you can kind of sit down and realize what you just did." 

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