MONTREAL - Despite a tough loss to the Calgary Flames, rookie Michael McCarron is heading home with a smile on his face and a once-in-a-lifetime souvenir.
With the Canadiens trailing by four goals in the third period on Sunday night, Nathan Beaulieu fired a shot from the blue-line towards the large shadow cast by the net-front presence of the Habs big No. 34. Using the soft hands that helped the former London Knight become a 2013 first-round draft pick, McCarron deftly deflected the point shot through Flames netminder Niklas Backstrom to score his first career NHL goal.
“It was really exciting. I’ve dreamt of that moment since I was kid. It was also a special feeling just to see how excited the guys on the bench were,” revealed the Grosse Pointe, Michigan native, who sent the Bell Centre faithful into a frenzy with his late third period marker. “Moving forward I’ll just try to stick to the same game plan; crash the net and grab those greasy pucks. The front of the net is where I am going to score most of my goals, I’m just happy that one finally went in for me. The fans gave me a very memorable salute, so I have to thank them for that. They were awesome.”
The excitement was palpable on McCarron’s face as the Bell Centre roared, as evidenced by the rookie’s double celebratory fist-pump and a smile big enough to match his 6’6” frame.
“I don’t think I was able to hold in my excitement. I had a huge smile on my face and chills running down my whole body,” expressed the former Memorial Cup winner back in 2015 with the Oshawa Generals. “I think one of the guys went and grabbed the puck for me. It’s going right to my mom. I’m sure both of my parents have already texted me. I’ll be calling them as soon as I get home after the game tonight.”
While the 21-year-old’s first career goal puck will certainly have a special place built in the McCarron residence, the limited edition collectible was almost lost forever. As the Bell Centre erupted in celebration, the puck meanwhile was lost somewhere within a maze of tangled mesh.
Were it not for a hard working referee, the rookie's first NHL goal puck might still be stuck in the back of one of the Bell Centre nets. Luckily teammate Stefan Matteau was patiently waiting to deliver the souvenir from the back of the net to the trusted hands of the Canadiens equipment staff.
Behind the bench, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien has also taken note of McCarron’s progress since the rookie first suited up for his National Hockey League debut on December 19, 2015 on the road against the Dallas Stars.
“Lately we’ve seen him putting a lot of pucks on net and he’s been a tough and physical presence in front of the crease. Tonight, he was finally rewarded for his efforts,” noted Therrien, who was quick to shift McCarron to his natural center ice position after just a few games on the wing. “We’ve seen some great things from such a young player; he is great at protecting the puck and uses his size to be an imposing net-front presence. That’s exactly how he scored his first career goal.”
Initially expected to spend the year plying his trade with the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL, McCarron was given the opportunity to showcase his talents with the Canadiens as the team endured a never-ending saga of injuries. With a fearless determination to plant himself in front of the opposing team’s net, the power forward has done his best Brendan Gallagher impression with the Habs energizer bunny presently sidelined with a lower-body injury.
“The front of the net is where I like to play. Not a lot of people go there and you need somebody on your team that does that. You see Brendan Gallagher. He does that all the time and he makes a living of it. If he can, why can’t I?” concluded McCarron.
If Sunday night proved one thing, it’s that Big Mike McCarron has the skill set, the determination, and of course the pearly whites, to be the next Gallagher.
Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com
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