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Mattias Ekholm scores first NHL goal

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Sunday was Mattias Ekholm’s 31st career National Hockey League game. Entering that game, the Swedish blueliner had zero NHL goals along with zero NHL penalty minutes.

Those would change over the course of a couple of days.

Up until the 19:49 mark of the second period of Sunday’s game, Ekholm had yet to be whistled for a penalty of any kind. It was then that the defenseman was sent off for delay of game – shooting the puck over the glass from inside his own blue line. Carolina failed to score on the ensuing power play.

Fast forward to Tuesday night, and there Ekholm is inside the Nashville zone with the puck, and again, he sends it into the stands, earning his second-ever NHL penalty. That one came at 6:11 of the second period.

Hardly a goon by any means, those are penalties players hate to take, especially against a team with a potent power play like the Sharks possess.

Just 38 seconds later, high-scoring Joe Pavelski scored for San Jose, tying the game 1-1.

“I dug myself a little hole there taking a bad penalty,” Ekholm said.

Not long after that, Ekholm was right back on the ice for a faceoff in the Predators zone. David Legwand beat Pavelski on that draw. When the puck came to Ekholm, he carried the puck behind the Sharks goal and emerged on the right side, where he sent a backhander on net through traffic.

“A puck out penalty can happen to anyone, so that was nice to get that one back right away,” Ekholm said.

That puck found a way through that traffic and behind San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi to give Ekholm his first career NHL goal. At first Ekholm thought the puck was deflected off of teammate Nick Spaling, but was thrilled to know that the goal was his own.

“it was kind of a broken play right off the faceoff,” Ekholm said. “I just tried to skate around the net, just trying to get my forehand in there and he blocked it out. I twisted around and got a backhand in there. I thought Spals tipped it at first, but it was nice it went in.”

The goal also put the Predators in front 2-1. They went on to win the game 3-2.

“I thought it was a really strong play with Ek on his goal,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “They scored on a power play with him throwing the puck into the stands there. He came out the next shift and he sort of took command. He was real strong and he got the puck to the net and got a little bit of a seeing-eye puck or a deflection in front. When you put pucks to the net, sometimes good things happen. It’s really nice to see him get his first goal.”

In addition to his assist on Ekholm’s goal, Legwand was also the one who retrieved the puck so that his teammate would have the all-important souvenir of his first marker.

“It’s nice to see everybody rewarded with their first goal, it only happens once,” Legwand said. “Yeah, I went and grabbed the puck for him.”

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