There are few bigger moments in a hockey player’s career than their first NHL goal. Every player remembers their first; what team it was against, who was in net for the opponent and often times, which teammates helped set up the play. For Corban Knight, a rookie on the Calgary Flames, he may have a bit more to the story about his first NHL goal than most. It is a heartwarming tale of linesman folly, fan interaction and the importance of being a good teammate.
The story begins a little over a week ago on March 5. The Calgary Flames, being securely out of a playoff spot, decided to spend this season rebuilding a team that would hopefully become a Stanley Cup contender in the future. One of the first things general managers do when they make this decision is gauge what the young players in their organization can bring to the table. Enter Corban Knight. Knight was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers last year after failing to agree to contract terms with them. He was a productive player for the Flames’ minor league affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat, scoring 51 points in 53 games. Injuries to many Calgary players gave Knight his first shot at NHL action on March 5, in a game against the Ottawa Senators.
The Flames won the game, 4-1, in a game that was never really in doubt. Fellow rookie, Markus Granlund, opened the scoring that night by scoring his first NHL goal early in the first period. Center Max Reinhart picked off a pass intended for a Senator forward and quickly got a shot on net. The rebound bounced to Granlund, who chipped the puck past goaltender Craig Anderson for his first NHL tally.
“It felt great, first NHL goal” said Granlund “You can only score one first NHL goal so it’s a nice feeling.”
Corban Knight’s first NHL game was a side note in that victory after stellar performances by his fellow rookies. Little did he know that he would his own chance in the spotlight and a heartwarming tale to go along with it.
Wednesday night’s game was a big one for the Flames. Though their playoff hopes are gone, they continue to play for pride, so a game against the division-leading Anaheim Ducks was a good test for the young team. The Ducks have struggled of late and the Flames ensured those struggles would continue. Opening up a 4-0 lead after the first period, the Flames would easily win the game by a final score of 7-2. Forward Mikael Backlund would contribute two goals and an assist in the rout, allowing the margin of victory to be wide enough to give some of the younger players some more ice time. Young players like Corban Knight.
With the score 6-2 in the dying minutes of the game, a deflected clearing attempt by an Anaheim player left Knight all alone by the faceoff circles and a gaping net to shoot at. Knight would quickly spin around and take a slapshot, firing the puck past goaltender Fredrik Andersen. A seventh goal would have been a statistical footnote for any other player, but for Knight, it was his first NHL goal and it was something special.
“It was the seventh goal but, for me, it felt like an overtime winner with how I felt after that,” said Knight. “It’s definitely something I’ll never forget.”
What happened next will be something he will never forget as well. Typically, when a player scores his first NHL goal, a teammate will go to the net and fish out the puck that ended up being the goal. The goalscorer would then get the puck after the game, marked with tape as his “First NHL goal.” Unfortunately for Knight, linesman Lonnie Cameron got to the puck first. Not knowing the importance of the puck, the linesman made one young fan’s day by tossing the puck over the glass and into the stands. Luckily, Backlund negotiated a trade with the little girl who caught the puck. According to one of the hosts of FlamesTV, Backlund traded the stick he used during the game for the puck after explaining it was Knight’s first NHL goal.
In the end, the heartwarming tale left almost everyone happy. Corban Knight received the lost puck after the game, a happy fan was made even happier with a more memorable memorabilia, Backlund showed that being a teammate means more than assisting on the ice, and one linesman will learn to be more careful about giving away gifts without checking with someone first.
This article is one in a daily series, providing coverage, analysis, and predictions to NHL fans.
Commentary by Jonathan Gardner
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