By Jim Diamond
By the time he has grandchildren and sits down to tell them how he scored his first NHL goal, it may evolve into being a one-timer from the top of the slot, but Thursday night, Viktor Arvidsson’s goal was an absolute beauty no matter how it went into the net.
With just under three minutes remaining in the first period, Seth Jones sent a wrist shot from above the right circle toward Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward. Arvidsson, standing in front of Ward along side linemate and fellow Swede Calle Jarnkrok, attempted to jump out of the way of the puck, which appeared to be headed by Ward on the glove side.
Just as Arvidsson jumped, Jarnkrok stuck the blade of his stick near the puck, tipping it ever so slightly off of its upward trajectory. After catching Jarnkrok’s blade, the puck hit the lower front part of Arvidsson’s jersey and leg and then by Ward. Playing his seventh NHL contest, the goal was Arvidsson’s first.
“They all count, so I take whatever I get,” Arvidsson said.
Arvidsson played his first season in North America in 2014-15, and it was not too tough of an adjustment to the skinnier rinks on this side of the Atlantic. In 70 games played with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL last season, Arvidsson had 22 goals and 33 assists. His seven power-play goals were tops on the Admirals.
With an impressive training camp and preseason performance this year, Arvidsson earned a spot on the opening night roster.
“This is a kid that works really hard,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “He worked hard last year, came over and learned the game and in his first opportunity tonight, he was able to score a big goal for us.”
But what about the puck?
It is hockey tradition for a teammate to retrieve a player’s first NHL goal puck, but at first, no one knew that it was Arvidsson’s goal. Like goaltenders usually do, Ward swept the puck out of the back of the net and it traveled toward the neutral zone as the five Predators on the ice celebrated the goal. Both the in arena and TV cameras focused on Jones, who had the initial shot on the play.
“I thought it was mine at first,” Jones said. “I didn’t really celly though because I kind of saw the whole bunch in there. I saw him come into the corner and go on one knee, so I kind of thought he thought it touched him.”
Arvidsson knew it was his.
“It hit my leg, so I knew straight away when it went in that I scored,” Arvidsson said. “It was a good shot and Jarny tipped it on my leg; a little bit lucky, but it’s a goal.”
Soon everyone else realized that the goal was Arvidsson’s. As he sat down on the bench, the 22-year-old allowed a little emotion to show when he gave a triple fist pump and a quick punch to the boards in front of him, all while wearing an ear-to-ear smile, because, that’s what you do when you score your first NHL goal. Linemate Cody Hodgson, sitting immediately to Arvidsson’s left, gave him a congratulatory pat on the head.
Friend o’ Rinkside and Goddess of the GIFs Stephanie caught the on-bench moment.
The puck was retrieved and was waiting for Arvidsson in the locker room following the game for the traditional first goal picture taken by team photographer John Russell.
At the time it was scored, Arvidsson’s goal made the game 2-0. Carolina’s Eric Staal scored at 18:20 of the third, and the game ended 2-1, which means that Arvidsson not only got credit for his first NHL goal, but also his first game-winning goal as well.
And that’s worthy of another fist pump.