DETROIT – It didn’t ricochet off of a set of shin pads en route to the net or deflect off the backside of an unfortunate defender.
In fact, Xavier Ouellet’s first-career goal was a thing of beauty set up from a productive passing sequence that resulted in a wide-open net for the rookie defenseman to finish the play, earning his piece of history.
“It was a nice goal,” said Stephen Weiss, who initiated the scoring play. “(It) started from behind the net. I tapped it over to (Darren Helm) and Helmer kinda backpedaled out from almost in the corner from behind the net and threw a beautiful seam pass across the crease to X and he just tapped it in. It won’t get any easier than that one for X, but all-in-all it wasn’t one he shot from the point that went off three shin pads and in, it was actually a pretty nice goal.”
Weiss was a bit of a good luck charm for Red Wings’ rookies this season, as he assisted on not just Ouellet’s first goal but also Teemu Pulkkinen’s first-career goal as well.
“It’s special, those are goals you remember your whole lifetime,” Weiss said. “I’ll always remember being a part of X’s and Pulky’s first one. Both those guys will score many more.”
Ouellet appeared in four games last season but never spent more than a week in Detroit. In 2014-15, though, the 21-year-old would spend a significant amount of time in the Wings lineup throughout the duration of three separate call-ups and appeared in 21 games this season.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Ouellet was efficient in his time with the Wings averaging 16:23 ice time per game and a plus-4 rating. A native of Bayonne, France, Ouellet was one of three French hockey players to appear in an NHL game this season, joined by the Philadelphia Flyers Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare and the Dallas Stars Antoine Roussel.
A second-round draft pick of the Wings in 2011, Ouellet had a knack for scoring pivotal goals. His first goal came on the road at New Jersey and sparked a come-from-behind 5-4 shootout win over the Devils on Nov. 28.
Then again on Jan. 20, his second goal of the season extended the Wings’ lead to three goals over the Minnesota Wild in a game that was also decided 5-4 in a shootout, in favor of Detroit.
Ouellet was a cool, calm presence on the blue line that showed signs of great promise. Still early in his development, the stout D-man has played 114 games in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins, scoring five goals and 31 points with a plus-nine rating in two seasons.
Quiet and composed, Ouellet’s demeanor translated to his game on the ice. While some would be jumping with joy at their first NHL goal, Ouellet achieved the feat so nonchalant that some teammates almost missed the milestone.
“I think everyone’s different, it kinda goes with your personality,” Weiss said. “X is a pretty calm, quiet guy and he didn’t do anything crazy. I wasn’t even sure it was his first goal. He’s played a bunch of games, so I wasn’t too sure if that was his first or not but found out shortly after it was, so pretty neat.”