Forward Brian Gibbons was watching football when he received the call Sunday night from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes that he had been called up to join the Penguins.
Hynes told Gibbons that he was ready to play at the highest level, and just to continue playing his game.
Less than 24 hours after receiving the call, Gibbons heeded Hynes’ advice and made a huge impact in his NHL debut – leading the Pens to a big 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday at CONSOL Energy Center.
Gibbons, 25, tallied his first career NHL goal at 3:52 of the third period – breaking a scoreless tie and propelling the Penguins out of their recent scoring drought.
Gibbons moved into the slot after the Penguins had established the offensive zone, avoiding the Anaheim defense that had their eyes peeled on a circling Evgeni Malkin and made himself available for a redirection opportunity.
It didn’t take long for Malkin, who was marked by multiple Ducks defenders by his side as he skated around the entire perimeter of the zone, to find Gibbons waiting between the circles with his stick on the ice where he directed it past Anaheim goaltender Viktor Fasth.
“I didn’t know it went in right away,” Gibbons said, who found himself on the ice with Malkin because of an unfinished line change. “I was kind of blocked off by their defenseman. I saw ‘Geno’ get excited, so that’s when I knew it went in.”
Gibbons’ goal announcement over the PA system drew a thundering ovation from the CONSOL Energy Center faithful – who had waited 18 minutes for the Pens to register their first shot in the opening frame.
“I think I am just taking it all in right now,” Gibbons said. “I don’t usually show a lot of emotion, but on the inside I am really happy.”
Just one minute after scoring his first career goal, Gibbons added another milestone – notching an assist on Brandon Sutter’s game-winning goal at 4:54 of the third period.
Gibbons said he has been waiting for the call for a long time, but knew once he got to the professional ranks that he would do everything he could to make a good first impression.
"It is definitely a special feeling," Gibbons said. "It has been a long road, playing in Wilkes-Barre for two years, and it was definitely exciting when I got the call."
During the game, the Braintree, Mass. native skated primarily on the third-line with Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen.
After Monday’s morning skate, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said Gibbons had been WBS’ best player all season and the best player in the entire American Hockey League for a stretch of time.
Prior to his call-up, Gibbons was leading the team with 22 points (7G-15A) – which ranked third in the league. That scoring touch carried over into the NHL on Monday after Gibbons shook off the nerves of his first couple of shifts.
“I thought starting on his third shift he really showed what he can bring,” Bylsma said. “We saw his speed getting on the pucks and being tough to handle. He had three or four real good shifts after that, playing with that speed with his line.
“He got an extra shift there in the third period and we saw (Malkin) turn it up another notch, wheeling with the puck there and he (Gibbons) just went to the net. It was his first, a big one for him and a big one for us in the third.”