In the Penguins’ home opener on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, history repeated itself.
Forward Richard Park
scored a shorthanded goal at the 15:21 mark of the second period – his first marker of the season – in his second home opener with the Penguins, a 4-2 win over the Panthers.
What’s so significant about that, you ask? Well, the Penguins originally drafted Park in the second round (50th overall) of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. And the forward experienced just one home opener during his first tenure with Pittsburgh to kick off the 1995-96 season.
That night, he scored a shorthanded goal – his first-ever NHL tally – on Maple Leafs goalie Felix Potvin in an 8-3 Penguins victory over Toronto.
“Trust me, I didn’t script that,” Park joked following the game. “I wish I was that good to have scripted that. But it was nice to contribute. Both were wins, so it’s a good feeling.”
Sixteen years may have passed since Park scored that first-career goal, but he remembers it vividly – and assured it feels just as good to score the same way tonight.
“A few more miles on the body, but whenever you can contribute,” he smiled. “It’s always special whenever you get a chance to score in the NHL, especially your first one, it’s something you always remember.”
Tonight’s goal was Park’s 15th-career shorthanded tally, and the 35-year-old forward says he’s gotten more comfortable within Pittsburgh’s aggressive penalty kill – which has gone 16-of-16 to start the season – as time goes on.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to kind of have time to get acquainted with what they’re trying to do from the goaltending right through the defense to the forwards,” he said. “Everyone’s played their part. There’s just a lot of familiarity out there with the guys that have been there. They’ve done an outstanding job.”
Park’s shorthanded prowess was one of the main reasons the Penguins signed him to a one-year deal this summer – but it certainly wasn’t the only one.
“We’ve had people in our organization play with him. He’s a hard-working, tenacious, intelligent, smart player, both on the penalty kill and five-on-five,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s a guy with enough skill and intelligence to chip in and be an effective player in a third, fourth-line role.
“He was very good tonight. He was a factor for us in the circle, penalty kill and scoring the goal. He was a big part of the game for us.”