This morning, Brian Boyle signed a one-year contract with the Penguins following his performance at training camp, where he attended on a PTO.
This evening, the veteran forward scored in Pittsburgh's season-opening 6-2 win over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.
"I know our team was really excited for him. Certainly our coaching staff was as well," Mike Sullivan said. "He's just a real good pro. He's a great person. And he was a big part of this win tonight."
The day was yet another chapter in Boyle's remarkable story, especially considering how the last year and a half had gone for him. Before tonight, his most recent NHL appearance came on Feb. 1, 2020 with the Florida Panthers.
The 36-year-old - who played 12-plus NHL seasons split between the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers before joining Pittsburgh - had been working hard to stay in shape ever since then in hopes of getting a call from an NHL club who could use his services.
He trained in Foxborough, Mass., with a group that included fellow NHLers Noah Hanifin and Kevin Hayes. They provided Boyle with support and encouragement that went a long way to helping him reach this point.
"They were positive. I'd ask them, 'Am I just past my time?' They reassured me, because it's a lot of time off, and a lot of time with just your own thoughts," Boyle said. "But at the end of the day, I wasn't ready to quit. So I didn't, and I'm fortunate that (Penguins general manager Ron Hextall) and Sully gave me a chance in camp."
Sullivan's familiarity with Boyle is well-documented, as he coached him with the Rangers years ago. And Boyle lived up to expectations in terms of what the Penguins thought the big forward (6-foot-6 and 245 pounds) could bring.
"He's really established himself as a real solid NHL player," Sullivan said. "He's had a great career to this point. We think he's a guy that's going to bring us leadership off the ice. We think he's going to help us on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle on the ice. There are a number of areas we think he can really help us, and I thought he had a strong showing during the training camp. So we're excited to have him. We think he's going to make us a better hockey team."
For his part, Boyle was overjoyed to earn a contract with the Penguins, saying he was thankful for the opportunity and excited to do what he loves.
"Mentally the motivation to go and train was still there, so I did it," Boyle said. "Also, there wasn't much else going on. I still had a passion for it. I still wanted to get back in and play. It's obviously challenging, but it's really a rewarding life to be able to play in this league. So I'm excited to get back in."
Boyle centered the fourth line in tonight's victory, playing with young forwards Drew O'Connor and Sam Lafferty. Both of his linemates picked up an assist on his goal, which beat Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy five-hole.
"That was awesome, and it was a nice goal, too," forward Danton Heinen said. "That was great to see. He's such a great guy and always smiling. Such a great teammate to have."
While the tally is what will garner most of the attention, for Sullivan, it's the details of Boyle's game that made all the difference.
"We play him in certain situations on the penalty kill, he had a blocked shot in the third period off of a D-zone faceoff loss," Sullivan said. "Those are the little things that go a long way to help teams win. That's an area we felt Brian could help our team improve, and he certainly showed that tonight."