NYR@MTL: First one's in the books
Noah Juulsen treated to a win at the Bell Centre in his NHL debutby Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com
MONTREAL - Noah Juulsen said he was excited to get the call for his first career NHL game. Coming out of it with a big win, then, could only be described as sweet icing on the proverbial cake.
The 20-year-old was called up from the Laval Rocket on Wednesday along with Charlie Lindgren, and his parents promptly bought a ticket and started making the trek from Abbotsford, BC early on Thursday morning in order to witness the occasion.
Big moments such as these can sometimes bring out the butterflies for even the most even-keeled among us, but Juulsen credited his Habs teammates with putting things into perspective.
"I was obviously nervous going into the game, but the guys helped me through that," described Juulsen, who was paired with veteran rearguard Karl Alzner. "I think it showed in my play.
"[Alzner] was talking to me all night. He just helped me get through the game. He was great with me."
Video: Noah Juulsen on his first NHL game
The team's leading goal-scorer, Brendan Gallagher, offered up a glowing report card of the Canadiens' first-round pick in 2015's performance.
"I thought he played unbelievably tonight. It's hard to believe that was his first game; he was so poised with the puck. He had a lot of shots, [he was] confident, he just came in and played his game," outlined Gallagher. "I've known him for a few years now, and that's what you'd expect. He's a guy who's going to be really good playing for this hockey team for a long time."
Juulsen was on the ice with No. 11 when the latter helped arrange the game's first goal in the first period. Gallagher skated the puck into Rangers territory and, when his shot was blocked, linemate Paul Byron recovered it and sent it cross-crease to Tomas Plekanec for an easy tip-in.
Video: NYR@MTL: Plekanec slams home Byron's pass
Surely, with the tally, Gallagher was hoping to give Juulsen a taste of the Bell Centre crowd's roar to make the experience just that much more memorable.
"You kind of have to pinch yourself a little bit," continued Gallagher, who extended his points streak to four games with his helper on the goal. "You look around, you look at the building you're playing in, the Montreal Canadiens sweater... He'll never forget that first one; it's a pretty special feeling."
Hopefully, Juulsen won't soon forget his numbers from his initiatory contest, either. He skated for a healthy 17:14 of ice time - including 2:49 on the penalty kill - and registered a pair of shots, a blocked shot, and four hits on the night.
"I brought the same game I've been playing down in Laval with the Rocket. That was my plan going into it and I think I did so," said the 6-foot-2, 175 pound blue-liner, who felt the pace of the game and the players' physical strength were the biggest differences from AHL hockey. "I just played my game, that was probably the biggest thing for me. I felt the same [way I did when] I played on Saturday night in Laval."
After Jeff Petry made it 2-0 with his career-high 10th goal of the season in the second, head coach Claude Julien had no qualms about sending out his new recruit to protect the lead, even after the Rangers narrowed the gap to 2-1 with only three minutes to go in regulation.
"An excellent game. He played quite the game for someone playing in his first NHL game. He was very solid in all aspects of his game," praised the Habs bench boss. "He was aggressive [...] he played with a lot of confidence, he was solid in his battles on the boards, he made good passes and he was very confident with the puck. Everything we wanted to see from him, he did well tonight."
Video: Claude Julien's postgame press conference
Juulsen was also on the ice when Phillip Danault - playing in his first home game since taking a puck to the head last month - managed an empty-netter from his own end with 1:17 to play to cap off a perfect first of what will surely be many NHL games for the young defender.
"I was excited. It's every kid's dream to play in the NHL," concluded Juulsen. "Tonight, I achieved that; hopefully, I can keep it going."