Goaltenders across the National Hockey League needed to be at the top of their games on Thursday night. Eight of the nine games played were decided by one goal, including four which went into overtime.
A busy night of action saw a top prospect make his NHL debut in Montreal. We will also take a look and an amazing game in the American Hockey League as well as one of the strangest stats in NHL history.
Primeau Impresses in First NHL Start
It is rare for a 20-year-old netminder to make his way into the NHL. Goaltenders tend to need more development than either forwards and defensemen, so to make it to the top league in the world at such a young age, you must be a special talent.
That is exactly what Cayden Primeau, son of former NHLer Wayne Primeau, did on Thursday night when he made his first career start for the Montreal Canadiens. The youngster has quickly risen up the organizational depth chart after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
After a great college career at Northeastern University, Primeau has had a terrific rookie season with the Laval Rocket in the AHL. He has a 2.58 goals-against average (GAA) and .910 save percentage (SV%) in his first 12 professional games. He earned the call up to the NHL after the Canadiens waived veteran Keith Kinkaid earlier in the week.
Primeau got the nod for his NHL debut, versus the Colorado Avalanche, in the first half of games on back-to-back nights for the Canadiens. He struggled a bit early by giving up a couple of easy goals, but his nerves settled down and he made 32 saves in a 3-2 loss.
“You could tell [Primeau] was nervous in the first period,” Canadiens head coach Claude Julien said. “He’d probably like to have those two goals back, but he made some big saves after that. The more the game went on, the more comfortable he got, the more he seemed to be confident and everything else. So, I like the way he gave us a chance to get back into this game with some of the big saves he made in the second, and even in the third.”
While much of the attention was on Primeau, it was Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz who made the save of the night. With his team nursing a one-goal lead late in the third period, Francouz somehow got his blocker out to flat out rob Artturi Lehkonen.
It will be interesting to see how the Canadiens handle Primeau going forward. While he will be better served playing every night in the AHL than watching Carey Price, the Canadiens are in desperate need of a quality backup. Much like the Toronto Maple Leafs, they are in the midst of a very tight playoff race in the Atlantic Division and cannot afford to lose points because of poor play from their second goaltender.
Desrosiers Stands on his Head
Philippe Desrosiers has bounced in between the AHL and ECHL over the past three seasons as a member of the Dallas Stars organization. He is now a part of the Florida Panthers system and has earned more playing time with the Springfield Thunderbirds since Chris Driedger was recalled to the NHL.
In his nine starts this season, Desrosiers is 7-2-0 with a 2.73 GAA and .930 SV%. He had one of the most impressive starts in recent AHL history in his 3-1 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Wednesday night.
The Phantoms came out firing and grabbed a 1-0 lead, just 9:29 into the game, on their 13th shot on goal. They averaged a shot per minute for the rest of the game to finish the contest with 63 shots on goal, but that first-period tally was the only puck they got past Desrosiers.
The 24-year-old goaltender made 50 saves after allowing the goal, including 44 in the final two periods. He became the first goaltender to have at least 60 saves in a regular-season game since Spencer Martin made 68 saves for the Colorado Eagles on Jan. 26, 2019. Prior to that, the last 60-save performance in the AHL was when J.S. Aubin stopped 63 shots for the St. John’s Maple Leafs in a 5-3 win over Syracuse on Dec. 30, 2004.
This Date in Goaltending History: A Strange Night in Calgary
Finally, we will take a look at a very strange evening that took place at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Dec. 6, 2001. This was the night when Mike Murphy got himself into the NHL record books in one of the strangest ways possible.
Murphy and the Carolina Hurricanes found themselves down 6-3 to the Calgary Flames midway through the third period. It was at this point when Murphy was called upon to make his first NHL appearance in relief of Cam Ward. He stopped the only two shots he faced before being removed for an extra attacker after the Hurricanes cut the deficit to two goals. While he was on the bench, future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla scores an empty-net goal to increase the Flames’ advantage to 7-4.
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Iginla’s tally eventually became the game-winner as the Hurricanes rallied for two late goals, in the final minute of play, to cut the lead to 7-6. This made Murphy the losing goaltender despite not allowing a single goal.
Murphy made another relief appearance against the Winnipeg Jets three nights later and made seven more saves. He was sent back down to the AHL the following day and never returned to the NHL. He finished his career with a 0-1-0 record with a 0.00 GAA and 1.000 SV%.