OTTAWA -- Many in the hockey world may not have been familiar with Jean-Gabriel Pageau prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but all of that changed after Game 3 between the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night.
Pageau's hat trick during the Senators' 6-1 thumping of the Canadiens during their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series was only the second in Ottawa's postseason history. The first was achieved by Daniel Alfredsson, now their 40-year-old captain, in 1998.
For the 20-year-old rookie Pageau, the significance of sharing the title with Alfredsson -- who also set him up for his third goal -- was evident.
"It's really special, even just to sit beside him in the dressing room," Pageau said. "I don't know how long this moment will last; I'm just trying to enjoy it and enjoy being on the ice with him. He's a real gentleman and a good leader."
The last month has been a whirlwind for the newly anointed hometown hero. Pageau, born in Ottawa, was taken in the fourth round (No. 96) of the 2011 NHL Draft by the Senators. He played just over two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and spent the majority of this season with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League.
Pageau made his NHL debut on April 11 against the Philadelphia Flyers, recording his first career point in the process.
During his time in Ottawa, coach Paul MacLean has given the center time on the first line, flanked by Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson.
"Coach has given me a lot of chances to be on the ice in different situations," Pageau said. "I'm just trying so hard to be successful."
MacLean, obviously impressed with his young player, joked on Monday that bridges leading from Ottawa to the Quebec city of Gatineau would be re-named "Jean" "Gabriel" and "Pageau." But the coach also insisted after Game 3 that he would have to take a moment with Pageau to "calm him down and refocus him" so that the center would be ready for Game 4.
"At this point, I haven't talked to him," MacLean said on Monday. "He's been too busy talking to [the media], which is great. He earned that opportunity. But at the same time, he's a player who has played nine games for us, and obviously a wonderful playoff game [Sunday]. But we have to make sure he understands where he is, and how the preparation for the next game gets more difficult."
For the rest of Monday, Pageau can remain content with the memory of fans and teammates chanting his name at the end of Game 3. The rookie was serenaded by Ottawa players as he exited the ice after being named the first star of the game -- a moment he won't soon forget.
"It was really fun," Pageau said. "To know that all your teammates are behind you and supporting you, that took a lot of pressure off and I [feel] really positive about that. I'm so happy that they did that … and surprised. I didn't know they were going to do that. I just don't want to disappoint them, so I'm going to keep giving them everything I've got."