Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Jon Jordan on 12/31/10 at 12:57 AM ET
A little pre-game surprise added to the excitement and anticipation for tonight’s game between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning as goaltender Cedrick Desjardins was announced late as the Lightning’s starter, making his NHL debut against the organization with which he spent parts of four seasons before coming to Tampa Bay in an off-season trade.
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher insisted, however, that his decision on a goaltender for tonight’s game had nothing to do with a Desjardins vs. Montreal scenario. Rather, it was quite the opposite.
“That was the right time because our streak was over,” Boucher said of a Lightning run of six wins in seven games and points in eight straight prior to Tuesday’s loss to Boston. “I almost didn’t start him because it was the Canadiens.”
He did and, at first, the decision may have appeared shaky, as Desjardins’ “Welcome to the NHL” moment came exactly 58 seconds into the contest and not exactly in the way one dreams about as a kid. Montreal’s Max Pacioretty banked a shot attempt off of Lightning defenseman Brett Clark and into the Tampa Bay net to give the Habs a 1-0 lead on their very first shot.
“That happens,” said Desjardins of the unfortunate start. “I’ve been through that type of games [with an] early goal. You have to step up your game.”
He was able to do just that, shaking off a shot from newly acquired Montreal blueliner James Wisniewski that rang the post behind him and fending off several other Montreal scoring chances in a sloppy first period for Tampa Bay that saw the home squad outshot 8-6.
Fortunately for Desjardins and for the Lightning, momentum swayed their way in the middle frame, with Martin St. Louis and Pavel Kubina connecting to give the Bolts a 2-1 lead. Tampa Bay took control of the shot total as well in the second, firing at Montreal netminder Carey Price eight times to just five Canadiens shots thrown in Desjardins’ direction.
And, in the third, Steven Stamkos took over, first converting a penalty shot attempt in dramatic fashion to extend the lead to 3-1 and later adding his second of the night to bring his goal total on the season to a very impressive 31. Stamkos’ penalty shot featured a spin-o-rama move in front of Price that would make Denis Savard (and, perhaps, Edmonton’s Linus Omark?) proud.
“It worked,” he said simply, “So I was happy.”
“Right now, that’s the only one [on shootout/penalty shot attempts] that’s worked for me.”
Getting past the early blemish and benefiting from his club’s offense coming to life in the second and third periods propelled Desjardins to his first career win but the goalie himself deserves some serious credit for holding the fort. He was needed early, as the Lightning needed time to settle in overall and a pair of impressive stops on Habs forward Tomas Plekanec, when the outcome was still anyone’s guess in the second period, stood out in particular. Down the stretch, several key saves thwarted any Montreal hopes of a comeback.
No matter what the formula for success was in the first of what Desjardins hopes will be many NHL victories, the end result leaves him satisfied. That it came against an organization he once called home is simply a footnote to a dream come true.
“Montreal gave me a chance,” he said. “It’s kind of a Hollywood scenario to play them in my first game but they gave me my chance at 20 years old. I’ll be always respectful for that.”
Regardless of who else his first NHL opponent could have been, chances are Cedrick Desjardins’ parting thoughts would have always been the same.
“This was a day I’ll never forget.”
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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