The 2:25 mark in the second period of the Penguins 2-0 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday evening is certainly a moment Penguins rookie Daniel Sprong will never forget.
“Kevin Porter made a good play in the defensive zone and Matt Cullen made a good pass,” Sprong recalled. “I fortunately got a great shot off it.”
On his third shot of the game, Daniel Sprong roofed the puck over the stacked pads of Senators goalie Craig Anderson for his first NHL goal to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
“I called for the pass from Cullen,” Sprong said. “He gave it to me and I just shot. I saw Anderson sliding and I just knew I had to put it high.”
As the goal horn sounded, Sprong tapped his stick on the ice and paused for a moment before jumping into the boards in celebration.
“I took it all in for a second,” Sprong said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do so I just saw the glass closest by and I just decided to jump on it.”
The primary assist on Sprong’s goal was credited to Cullen, whose veteran presence has certainly helped calm the 18-year-old’s nerves through his first few games.
“He always says, ‘Just stay calm. Don’t be nervous,’” Sprong said of Cullen. “‘Just play the game you know how to play.’”
It’s Sprong’s game that has him kicking off the 2015-16 NHL season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins 2015 second-round draft choice (46th overall) turned heads at training camp. His “take charge” attitude impressed head coach Mike Johnston and management alike.
Sprong didn’t let off the gas pedal when it came to game time. He went on to score two goals and three points in five preseason contests. It was enough for him to earn a spot on the Penguins opening night roster.
“I just wanted to prove Pittsburgh right,” Sprong said. “That they picked the right guy and I want to show them I can play in the NHL as soon as possible.”
With his first NHL goal and a great all-around game, Sprong did just that.
“I really think he’s going to be a good player for this organization,” Johnston said. “I like what I see out of him, how competitive he is.”
Sprong has five games left to reach nine games. At that point, the Penguins can choose to send him back to juniors or let his entry-level contract kick in. But even with his first NHL goal in the books, he isn’t thinking that far ahead.
“I still have to keep playing the right way and just keep playing the way I have to play,” Sprong said. “But it’s nice to get the first one out of the way.”
Not only did Sprong make history for himself but for his home country. Sprong is now the first Dutch-born NHL player to score a goal in the NHL since Ed Kea in the 1981-1982 NHL season.
“I’m very proud of where I’m from,” Sprong said. “Just a great honor being in the record book for Holland.”