NEW YORK -- If only the "Broadway hat" would have fit, because maybe then New York Rangers rookie left wing Jimmy Vesey's night would have been perfect.
"A little small," Vesey said Monday with a smile as he wore the black fedora, a symbol recognizing the players' choice as the Rangers player of the game.
Vesey wore it snuggly on his head with pride anyway because his performance featured his first career NHL goal, which happened to be the game-winning goal in the Rangers' 7-4 win against the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden.
Vesey scored at 12:37 of the third period, capitalizing off of a turnover created by right wing Mats Zuccarello to give the Rangers a 5-2 lead. San Jose scored twice more, but New York got empty-net goals from Zuccarello and Michael Grabner to give Vesey a chance to celebrate his milestone with a win as the reward.
"Definitely just pure joy," Vesey said of his goal. "I think I expressed it a little on the ice. I think I gave two fist pumps. I just couldn't be happier to get that one out of the way."
Video: SJS@NYR: Kreider wrists in PPG from left circle
It was even sweeter for Vesey seconds later, after the fist-pumping and the congratulatory hugs from his teammates. The fans stood and roared while public address announcer Joe Tolleson announced Vesey's goal, making sure to emphasize it was the first of his NHL career.
"The ovation afterwards was awesome, what I dreamed about as a kid," Vesey said. "Really happy to get that one."
Forgive Vesey for feeling like it was a long time coming. It was, at his own doing, of course.
It has been more than four years since the Nashville Predators made Vesey the 66th pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. He's 23 years old now and just starting his career.
Vesey played four years at Harvard University, winning the Hobey Baker Award last season, and eventually refused to sign with the Predators. They traded his rights to the Buffalo Sabres on June 20. He didn't sign with them either.
Vesey became the talk of the NHL in July and August because of his decision to spurn the Predators and Sabres and become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 16. He entertained pitches from various teams, some who brought superstar players with them, but Vesey finally settled on the Rangers and signed Aug. 20.
With the hype and the summer saga came additional pressure for Vesey to be impactful quickly. He hasn't disappointed.
After a quiet debut against the New York Islanders last Thursday, Vesey has been noticeable and a difference maker in the past two games. He got rewarded for it with his goal Monday.
Zuccarello forced a turnover and got the puck to center Derek Stepan, who found Vesey in front for a tap-in past Sharks goalie Martin Jones.
"I think it's important to get it relatively soon, but I've felt more and more comfortable on the ice in all three games," Vesey said. "I think this just gives me even more confidence, so I'm looking to build off the last two efforts especially for my line and keep getting better going forward."
Video: SJS@NYR: Hayes scores tap-in goal to finish rush
Vesey said he can tell his confidence and comfort level is growing because he's not afraid of making mistakes, especially in the offensive zone.
"Sometimes in the beginning you just try not to make a mistake and play it safe, but I'm holding onto it more and making plays," he said.
That was evident early Monday, when Vesey made the play that eventually helped set up defenseman Marc Staal's one-timer goal at 12:06 of the first period.
He had the puck behind the Sharks net and got knocked down by defenseman Brent Burns. Vesey got up, stuck with the play, got the puck back and eventually got it to Zuccarello. Two passes later, Staal deposited a one-timer into the back of the net.
"Me and [Zuccarello], we're talking with him, we're working with him and we're trying to get him to be as comfortable as he can be because in order to have success here you need to be comfortable," Stepan said. "Each game, you see him kind of getting more and more comfortable with the puck and more and more comfortable with protecting the puck and making those plays."
He made the biggest of his extremely short NHL career in the third period Monday. It helped the Rangers get a win and gave him a memory that will last forever, a souvenir to cherish, and for one night at least, a hat that didn't quite fit.
Two out of three ain't bad.