It's certainly a night that goaltender Jason LaBarbera will never forget - for a few reasons. Having been summoned from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) a day earlier, LaBarbera was given the start tonight as the Rangers hosted the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden.
After allowing a pair of second period goals, the 24-year old settled down and finished with 19 saves en route to a 3-2 win for New York, marking his first NHL victory. The milestones didn't stop with the win, as he also collected an assist on Bobby Holik's game-winning power play goal, to give him his first NHL point.
"It's exciting, obviously," LaBarbera said of his first win in the bigs. "It was an interesting game. It was just fun to be out there and the whole atmosphere in The Garden. It was a pretty cool experience."
So what was the netminder more proud of - the win or the assist?
"The win, I think," he added with a smile. "I didn't even know that I got the assist until I came to the bench and Fedor Tyutin told me that I got the assist. It's about the easiest assist I ever got."
Jaromir Jagr was certainly happy for LaBarbera and praised the goaltender's play on the night.
"I'm happy for him," said Jagr, who picked up a milestone of his own in the win - his 1,300th NHL point. "It's not easy to come in after all these trades, especially into Madison Square Garden. These fans can be tough. But he did his job and I'm happy for him. The last save in the last minute of the game was awesome and he truly deserved it."
Holik also praised the play of LaBarbera following the game.
"He played very well and very composed," said Holik. "He was confident and very cool. He didn't play nervous whatsoever and he made some great saves toward the end of the game. There were a couple of passes across and one-timers. He made very, very important saves. It was just nice to see Jason being so composed. That gives you some confidence as a team when the goalie is pretty much in the zone and he has control of the game."
Winning is nothing new for LaBarbera this season, as he leads the AHL with 26 vistories, posting a 26-7-8 mark in 47 games. His 12 shutouts also leads the league and established a new AHL record for most shutouts in a single season by a goaltender - eclipsing a 61-year record first established by the Buffalo Bisons' Gordon Bell during the 1942-43 season.
The Burnaby, British Columbia native made his first NHL start earlier this season on November 20, 2003 at Colorado - a 4-3 loss to the Avs - and made his Rangers/NHL debut on October 14, 2000 at Pittsburgh.
LaBarbera was New York's third round draft choice, 66th overall, in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.