Throughout the season, tampabaylightning.com will periodically talk to Lightning players or coaches to get their first-hand account of a critical moment from the season or just what's on their mind currently.
In this installment, we hear from goaltender Eddie Pasqaule, who was recalled from AHL Syracuse to serve as the backup to Louis Domingue when Andrei Vasilevskiy fractured his left foot in mid-November. Pasquale made his NHL debut December 4 in Detroit, a memorable experience for the 28-year-old netminder not just because it was his first game but also because of the action on the ice. The Lightning rallied from deficits of 2-0, 3-2 and 5-3 to force overtime, and Pasquale made 19-of-24 saves and two more stops in a shootout to backstop the Bolts to a wild 6-5 victory.
As told to tampabaylightning.com beat writer Bryan Burns, Pasquale discusses when he learned he would be making his first start in the NHL, how he prepared for the momentous occasion and what it was like to play in front of thousands of fans, including family from Toronto that made the drive, at Little Caesars Arena.
"The day before the game in Detroit, we were holding a morning skate at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. (Tampa Bay goalie coach) Frantz (Jean) told me I'd most likely be playing the next day since it would be the second game of a back-to-back. After the game in New Jersey as we were walking onto the plane for Detroit, Coop told me it was official. I was excited, but I tried to downplay it just so I wouldn't go into the game feeling nervous or anything. I called my parents and told them I was starting, told my fiancé and then just tried to mellow out and not get too worked up about it. I wasn't really looking ahead to see when I might get a start because I've seen goalies play back-to-backs before and maybe Louis needed a rest in another game or something like that, but my parents had a feeling if there were going to be a time for me to start, it would be in Detroit, so they made sure not to keep their schedule open for that day. I grew up in Toronto and my family still lives there. It's only a three-and-a-half hour drive to get to Detroit, so they were coming for sure. I just had to make sure I got them a ticket and a hotel room.
Video: TBL@DET: Pasquale denies Athanasiou on the rush
The day of the game, I honestly wasn't nervous at all. I felt fine. Obviously, I was a little more excited than a normal game, but I didn't feel jitters or anything like that. I just wanted to go and play. Before the game, I put my headphones in and kind of zoned out and got myself mentally prepared for the game, just like I've done throughout my playing career. I tried to treat it like a normal game. It basically is, just a higher skill level. I tried to imagine it like an AHL game and do all my routines and stuff like that.
Going out on the ice for the first time for warmups was intense. It's the NHL so it was a big atmosphere, the music's louder, more fans. Everything's magnified a bit. It was also kind of weird because I always stretch on the bench and that's where all the Detroit guys were coming out and I know half of them because I played with a lot of them in Grand Rapids [Pasquale was a member of Detroit's AHL team in Grand Rapids in 2016-17, the season they defeated the Syracuse Crunch for the Calder Cup]. They were all saying 'hi' to me as I skated out, so that was kind of the weird part. I have great memories in Grand Rapids and Detroit's organization because we won a Cup there. I'm still close with all those guys and we still talk because when you win a championship, that bond you really can't break. It was pretty special to see those guys and play against them.
I thought the way the game started was great for me. I got a lot of shots early, and that's when I feel comfortable because I don't have time to think. It's when they scored the two at the end of the second period and the beginning of the third when I wasn't getting a lot of shots and one goes by and your mind starts running 100 miles an hour. It's almost better just to get peppered because you can't think, you just play. There's a little bit of a jump in the level between the AHL and the NHL. It's cleaner in the NHL obviously. Guys make their plays. But if a mistake happens, it's almost like they're boom, boom, boom, Grade-A chance against. They can jump on those plays and they can read them so much quicker. You've just always got to be ready.
The shootout was a blur honest. Making the save on the first shooter was huge. If that first one would have gone in, it probably would have been thinking 'uh oh.' It was nice to make the first two saves and give the team a chance. I didn't have a book on any of the shooters' moves. I've seen guys' shootout moves from watching highlights, but I try not to watch video because then you're thinking this is the only move the guy has. It's the NHL. Guys have three, four, five moves. I just tried to hold my ground, take away the angles and hopefully make the save.
Video: TBL@DET: Pasquale makes tough save in shootout
Everybody congratulated me on the ice after the win and in the locker room, but, honestly, I was kind of upset because I gave up five goals. I didn't really enjoy the win until the next day when we flew back and I had the day off and everything just kind of sunk in. But it was a great moment. Coop was there on the bench to congratulate me right after the game was over. Everyone was happy for me. I was happy that they scored five to tie the game so we could get into overtime and a shootout. It was a good day.
I saw my family for about 10-15 minutes after the game in the waiting area in Detroit. I think they were happier for me than I was. It was good that they could come and experience that because I've been through a long path to get there. That I could share the moment with them made it even more special. At the end of the day, not everyone gets a chance to play in the NHL. It took me nine years, so that's an accomplishment in itself just to get a start. I kept a puck and the stick I used from the game, and I'll get the jersey at the end of the year. When I look back, when I'm finished with hockey one day, it's going to be pretty special to say I got there when I have the jersey hanging in my house. But, right now, we're hockey players. We play a hockey game, we come to work every day and we just play."