Montreal, Quebec – You couldn’t have scripted this any better for the NHL debut of former SCSU center Ryan Poehling. A week removed from the NCAA West Regional tournament Poehling dazzled the Montreal faithful at the Bell Centre with a hat trick and shootout goal as the Canadiens earned a 6-5 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, April 6. Despite being eliminated from the playoffs on Friday, the Canadiens gave their fans a glimpse of the future with the successful debut of the 2017 first round choice. Although a rarity to net a hat trick in your first rookie game it’s been done before as Alex Smart accomplished the feat in January of 1943 for Montreal. Most recently, Auston Matthews scored four goals in an October 2016 game for the Toronto Maple Leafs vs the Ottawa Senators.
After falling behind by a 2-0 score, Poehling netted his first NHL goal at 11:41 of period one with assists to Jeff Petry and left wing Nicolas Deslauries. Poehling was squeezed into the paint by the Leafs Frederik Gauthier but got his blade on a puck fed to him from behind the goal by Gordon Weal and it got under Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen to narrow the score to 2-1. Poehling then scored the next goal of the game at 2:56 of period two to tie the score at 2-2. Poehling, who was parked to the left of Andersen, had easy pickings as a shot from the point by Jeff Petry deflected off the cross-bar to Poehling for an easy tap in. With the teams trading goals and the Leafs ultimately taking an early third period 5-4 lead on a goal by Kasperi Kapanen, Poehling once again came to the rescue with his third goal of the contest at 17:29 to send the game to overtime. On a two on one with Arturri Lehkonen, Poehling took a feed over the blue line and beat Andersen with a wrist shot stick side to tie the game at 5-5.
The overtime session became a goaltenders duel between the Leafs Frederik Andersen and former SCSU standout netminder Charlie Lindgren who both made outstanding stops in the extra session to keep the game tied at 5-5. Despite allowing five goals, Lindgren stopped 44 of 49 shots on goal in his only NHL start of the season, preserving the opportunity for fellow Lakeville, MN native Poehling to do additional damage in the shootout. And, how appropriate was it in a magical night for Poehling that he also buried his opportunity in the fourth round of the shootout beating Anderson once again with a wrist shot high glove side to place the Habs in a position to gain the shootout win in their last game of the season. But, it was Lindgren who had to make one final save on Kampanen in the shootout to close out the game for the Canadiens.
“I just tried to go out there and play my game and do the right things and sometimes you get rewarded” said Poehling following the game. “It was a surreal moment for myself. It feels like a dream-I don’t know what to say” In describing the goals Poehling said ” The first one was kind of a greasy one and the other one the same thing. I just got in front and made a good tip. The third one the guy (Lehkonen) made a good play and I got a good shot on it. It was nice to give the fans that last hurrah for the season.”
“I know the guys were extremely happy for him on the bench when he scored his first goal and then his second and his third” said Montreal coach Claude Julian. “It brought joy to the locker room in a tough situation. It’s nice to see that we have good young kids coming. Tonight Ryan played with a lot of emotion for his first game and I think he’ll remember this for a long time.”