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Pastrnak's 25th goal for Bruins draws raves from Esposito

Boston legend says forward unleashed 'unbelievable shot' against Canadiens

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

From his home in Florida on Sunday, Boston Bruins legend Phil Esposito saw David Pastrnak laser a shot behind Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price for the Boston forward's 25th goal of the season.

Esposito, who knows a thing or two about scoring goals, was duly impressed.

"I'll tell you what my thought was," the Hall of Famer said. "There's a guy who knows that from the top of the face-off circle to the dot, on either side of the circle, it's like a funnel to the goal. You've got to think, 'Shoot.' And he did. And that's why he's a goal-scorer. These guys who keep passing the puck when they've got opportunities to shoot are not goal-scorers, ok? Goal-scorers think, 'Shoot first.' And that's what Pastrnak does."

The 23-year-old became the first NHL player to score at least 25 goals in the first 27 games of a season since Jaromir Jagr had 27 for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1996-97, Jagr scoring his 25th in 26 games. And Pastrnak is the fastest Bruins player to score 25 goals since Cam Neely, now the Bruins president, had that many in the first 22 games of 1993-94.

Most of the talk about Pastrnak's 25th goal was the velocity of the 30-foot slap shot that ripped past Price at 6:16 of the third period, tying the game 1-1, and sparking the Bruins to a 3-1 win on home ice. 

"He got a lot on that one," Price told reporters. "He buried his head and shot it as hard as he could."

But for Esposito, who scored 717 goals in 1,282 NHL games from 1963-64 to 1980-81 for the Chicago Blackhawks, most famously the Bruins and finally the New York Rangers, Pastrnak's goal was more about its accuracy.

"I don't care if that shot is going 60 or 70 miles an hour, Carey Price couldn't have gotten it," said Esposito, a five-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top point-scorer. "I said to my brother-in-law when we saw it, 'What a shot.' He said, 'Boy, he blasted it,' and I said, 'It doesn't matter how hard he shot. It was in the perfect spot.' "

Video: MTL@BOS: Pastrnak scorches one in off the post

The NHL's leading goal-scorer for six consecutive seasons from 1969-70 through 1974-75, with a career-high 76 in 1970-71, Esposito remembers working after hockey-school teaching sessions with his brother, NHL goalie Tony Esposito.

"I'd slide the puck to see how far and how fast Tony could move from one side to the other if I aimed for the goal posts," Esposito said. "I think I'd slide it 70 or 80 mph and he couldn't do anything about it if I hit the right spot. David Pastrnak hit the right spot. He does that a lot. He's a goal-scorer. Alexander Ovechkin (of the Washington Capitals), goal-scorer. I was a goal-scorer.

"Pastrnak's shot goes in on anyone. It was just an unbelievable shot. What surprised me was that it was a slap shot. A few guys in my day -- Mike Bossy, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur and the Boomer (Bernie Geoffrion) -- could slap the puck like that and hit the spot."

Esposito said that when he was in a scoring groove, even the smallest opening could appear to be the size of a barn.

"Not all the time, but there were times in my career that I'd see a hole just large enough to fit the puck through and it looked three times that size," he said. "Hitters in baseball have told me how the ball can look huge."

Esposito recalled a goal he scored in the historic 1972 Summit Series between Canada and Russia where he said he felt the game slowed down. 

"In Game 8 of the Summit Series, Peter Mahovlich took the puck early in the third period and went up the boards, put it out in front of the net to me and I beat (goalie Vladislav) Tretiak with a second swipe. In my mind, that was in slow motion," Esposito said. "It never happened to me before, or after. Bobby Orr told me one time that he would slow the game down in his mind. (Wayne) Gretzky certainly did it. Does Pastrnak? Probably not as well as (regular linemates Brad) Marchand or (Patrice) Bergeron, but he's a better goal-scorer."

Esposito will hear no discussion that Pastrnak is a pure goal-scorer.

"No such thing," he said. "I don't believe that anything's pure or perfect. No one or nothing is perfect. We all have our faults. But Pastrnak is on a run now and he's feeling it. I remember when I got on those runs. You feel it. You don't want it to end no matter what."

As for where Esposito would rank the Bruins' top line of Patrice Bergeron, Pastrnak and Brad Marchand?

"I don't give a (darn) about other lines, that's the best line in hockey, absolutely," he said. 

And then, with a laugh: "I'd rank them second all-time. Behind me, Ken Hodge and Wayne Cashman."

Photos Courtesy: HHoF Images

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