The Province


NHL goals are always memorable, but they’re not all beauties


The dream scenario varies depending on your age, depending on who you grew up watching.

A tic-tac-toe scoring play from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the power play.

A one-timer on Carey


A breakaway with Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Jarome Iginla, enter-your-favourite-player-here to win the Stanley Cup.

But the truth is, for most National Hockey League players, the first career goal is typically not as picture perfect as you imagine when you’re playing pond hockey, roller hockey, or mini-sticks. Mark Jankowski can relate. “Growing up, I thought it would be a snipe or something,” said the 24-year-old Calgary Flames forward. “Mine was not quite like that.”

Eight games into his first NHL season last year on Nov. 9, Jankowski was on a first-period breakaway with Jaromir Jagr and sent a pass over to the Czech legend. After the then-Flames winger shot it on then-Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek, the rebound bounced out to Jankowski, went off his pants, and in.

First NHL goal. No doubt, a memory he’ll never forget.

But the highlight didn’t exactly make it to the Top 10 list on Sportsnet or TSN.

“I feel like most of the time, that’s how the first goes in,” said the 24-year-old with a chuckle. “It breaks the ice a little bit … it’s a little greasy. You just want to get that first one out of the way to take the pressure off.”

The Flames were shut out for the first time this season on Friday at Las Vegas, losing 2-0 to the Golden Knights. Meaning that Saturday’s skate at Gila River Arena in Glendale — as the Flames prepared for today’s matinee against the Arizona Coyotes — was the perfect day to talk about greasy goals and reminisce about players’ firsts.

Coincident­ally, Mikael Backlund’s first NHL goal came in the desert on Jan. 28, 2010.

“I came off the bench in the third period,” “We were down and Borky (Rene Bourque) had the puck in the offensive zone and I came right from our bench. He made a cut into the middle and dropped it to me and just shot it.”

The assist, of course, went to then-Coyotes defenceman Ed Jovanovski — Backlund’s goal went off his stick and past Ilya Bryzgalov.

“I thought it actually went straight in,” Backlund said with a chuckle. “Low glove. But on the replay, you could see it went off his stick.

“It looked pretty good still.” Others weren’t so lucky. “Mine was not a thing of beauty,” recalled Austin Czarnik, who netted his on Oct. 26, 2016, as a member of the Boston Bruins who were visiting the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. “It was on (Henrik) Lundqvist so I thought that was really cool, to get my first one on him.

“It was a small play, (David) Krejci gave me the puck and I went over the blueline and shot it through (Rangers defenceman) Brady Skjei’s skates). I shot through the screen and it hit him (on his armpit) and kind of handcuffed him. It hit him, rolled in, and barely touched the back of the net.”

No, it wasn’t pretty.

But, as they say, there are no pictures on a scoresheet.

“Like, who cares how it is,” Czarnik said. “You did it. You scored an NHL goal. It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty or not. You won’t remember it as that.”

Dillon Dube’s first NHL goal scored his a few days ago, in Wednesday’s 6-3 home win over the Winnipeg Jets. The milestone was a long time coming, especially since his red-hot pre-season set the tone for the 2018-19 NHL campaign.

But it was also a decent one — a nice play by linemates Garnet Hathaway and Jankowski along the wall before Jankowski gave a back-handed pass to Dube who was on Connor Hellebuyck’s doorstep.

Dube slapped it past the Jets netminder and, boom.

“For myself, I did not care what it was,” said the 20-yearold rookie forward with a grin. “If it went off my back, my shoulder, I didn’t care as long as it went in the net. You know, it’s weird. If you get it off the leg or something and it’s your first one, it still gives you more confidence even if you didn’t even shoot the puck. It’s just a huge momentum builder to carry on.”

The perspectiv­e is a little different from when he was picturing himself scoring an NHL goal back in his bantam days with the Airdrie Xtreme or at Notre Dame in Saskatchew­an or even the last few years with the Kelowna Rockets.

“When you’re a kid, you obviously want the highlight reel every time,” Dube said. “But as you get older, you realize that it’s pretty limited. Not too many guys can do that. But it’s being a guy who can find the right areas of the ice.”

Sam Bennett’s first NHL goal might not have been pretty. But he remembers the setting and moment in time vividly.

April 19, 2015, at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Game 3 of the Flames’ first-round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks.

His first taste of the NHL post-season.

“Backs (Mikael Backlund) cycled it to (Joe) Colborne and he shot it on net,” he said. “It was just a rebound and I whacked at it and it just slid in. It wasn’t the prettiest, by any means. But it was a cool experience.”

It was Calgary’s first taste of the post-season since


“I just remember sitting on the bench and I remember how loud the building was,” Bennett said. “I just couldn’t help but smile after. Pretty cool.”

And while it might not have looked how he pictured it, the feeling is even better than you’d imagine.

“I don’t think it mattered how it went in,” Bennett said. “I just always dreamed of scoring in the NHL and however it happened, it happened.”

 ?? WELLS — JIM ?? Mark Jankowski’s first NHL goal went off his pants and past former Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek.
WELLS — JIM Mark Jankowski’s first NHL goal went off his pants and past former Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek.
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