Cory Conacher’s NHL debut didn’t go exactly as planned.
Depending on the way one looks at it, that is.
Prior to skating in his first career NHL game as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 23-year-old forward said he had to remind himself to create plays, and most importantly, get the puck to linemates Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell.
He did, in fact, do that, assisting on Lecavalier’s first-period goal in the team’s 6-3 win against the Washington Capitals, but perhaps saved the best for last.
Conacher scored his first NHL goal in his NHL debut Saturday night.
- Name: Cory Conacher
- Team: Tampa Bay Lighting
- Position Center
- Shoots: Left
- Age: 23
- First NHL Goal: January 19, 2013 vs. Washington Capitals
- Opposing Goaltender: Braden Holtby
- In His Own Words: Conacher speaks with media post-game
With Tampa Bay clinging to a 4-3 lead, Conacher’s linemates returned the favor, as Purcell set the rookie up perfectly to finish an odd-man rush and pad the Lightning lead to two.
In the middle of a line change, the Capitals were caught napping when Purcell collected the puck in the neutral zone and zipped up ice. As he stickhandled around one defender, he dished the puck over to Conacher, streaking along the left side, who beat goaltender Braden Holtby up high.
“It was awesome,” Conacher said. “I couldn’t have done it without these guys. All game I just tried to skate hard and do the little things, but I was just so glad I could take advantage of the opportunity I was given. Purcell set me up nice.”
Perhaps Conacher knew all too well the deficiencies of the opposition.
He and Holtby, he said, were familiar with each other from the 2011-12 American Hockey League season, when Norfolk and Hershey would often meet each other on the regular schedule.
“We had some pretty good battles,” Conacher said.
Including on Saturday, when Conacher and the Bolts emerged victorious.
This, of course, came as no surprise to head coach Guy Boucher.
“He fits right in,” Boucher said. “This guy is ready. It's not a project and he's ready to go. He’s got speed, he made some terrific plays, scored a goal and deserved it.”
And to think, it was only Game 1 of what looks to be a bright career ahead.