Earlier in the week, Nashville Predators rookie Filip Forsberg scored his first career NHL goal. Fellow rookie Seth Jones assisted on the goal for his first career NHL point. Following that game, Jones said that he didn’t want a piece of the milestone puck; he would wait for his first goal and keep that one.
His wait ended Saturday night.
In what the Predators hope is a preview of many more to come, Jones scored his in Nashville’s 3-2 win over the visiting New York Islanders.
With the Predators on a power play, Shea Weber had the puck above the right circle, and he slid a pass to David Legwand on the right boards. Legwand skated with the puck and then spotted Jones at the top of the left circle. Jones corralled Legwand’s pass, settled the puck, and then beat New York goaltender Evgeni Nabokov with a slap shot on the short side.
“The seam was there for a couple of seconds, and I was hoping that Leggy saw me,” Jones said. “He’s got good vision, so he did.”
The Predators took advantage of the fact that Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic had broken his stick earlier in the play. With it being the second period, the Islanders were a long way from their own bench, so getting a replacement or a change was not possible.
Winger Matt Martin gave his stick to Hamonic, but even that was problematic for Hamonic, since he is a right-handed shot and Martin shoots left.
With Martin stickless, the Predators worked the puck to the side he was occupying in an attempt to exploit his inability to get a stick into a passing or shooting lane.
Jones was happy his wait ended just five games into his NHL career.
“It is a monkey off my back,” he said. “I’m glad it came this quick. I think last year in Portland it took me eight games and that felt like forever, so I am glad I got it a little quicker this year.”
Stationed in front of Nabokov, as one might expect, Patric Hornqvist went into the Islanders net to fish out Jones’ first goal puck. After collecting the puck, Hornqvist joined his teammates in celebration just outside the blue line.
“I am staying in the corners so I am the first guy to the puck,” Hornqvist joked. “Obviously it is good for him, good for our power play too. Leggy held onto the puck there and then sent a cross-ice pass to Jones and he hammered low blocker. It’s nice that he got his first out of the way too.”
Hornqvist has also been the one to retrieve the first goal pucks for Roman Josi and then earlier this week for Forsberg, a fellow Swede. Since he is frequently in front of the opponents’ goal, it makes sense that he is there when a teammate scores their first, but it is also a tribute to him realizing in the heat of the battle about a milestone achievement and reacting to it.
Hornqvist is now Nashville’s de facto golden puck retriever.
“We have a great team this year, and we have a lot of good guys off the ice,” Jones said. “The chemistry in the room this year is unbelievable. Everyone is real close and there are virtually no cliques. It’s cool that some of the veterans are looking out for you like that.”