Generally overlooked in all the commotion Thursday night over the Canes’ winning goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs was the Canes’ first goal against the Leafs.
Had the game not been decided on the goaltending gaffe by the Leafs’ Jonathan Bernier, the biggest storyline likely would have been the Canes’ Ryan Murphy coming back to Toronto, filling the stands with family and friends, then thrilling them with his first NHL goal.
With the Canes trailing 2-0 in the third, the defenseman took a pass from Jeff Skinner at the left point on the power play and winged a shot toward the net. The puck caught the stick of the Leafs’ Dave Bolland in the slot and got past Bernier. Just like that, Murphy had his first.
“It was pretty cool,” Murphy said. “I would have liked to do it on the rush a couple of moments earlier but nonetheless it’s a moment I’ll remember forever. It was a great pass by Skinner. I’ll take it.”
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Murphy, Skinner and rookie Elias Lindholm often hang out together. They’re all former first-round draft pick who can relate to what’s expected of them, and Skinner and Murphy were former Kitchener Rangers teammates.
It’s perhaps fitting that Skinner, the 2011 Calder Trophy winner, now has the primary assist on both Lindholm’s and Murphy’s first NHL goals this season. Lindholm scored his against the Washington Capitals last week as Murphy had the second helper on the goal.
But Lindholm was thousands of miles away from his Swedish home. Murphy is an Aurora, Ont., native who attended many Leafs games with his father and brother. On Thursday, he had a big group on hand to see him play his first NHL game at Air Canada Centre.
“I think a quarter of the stadium was friends and family,” Murphy joked. “There are a lot of people who came out and are happy I got that first one out of the way in Toronto.”
And happy the Canes won. Eric Staal followed up Murphy’s goal by tying the score and the Canes won it on the bizarre Bernier blunder, the puck bouncing off the boards and off his skate and into the net.
“We’re a resilient group with good leadership and everybody was staying positive on the bench,” Murphy said. “It was a crazy ending but we’ll take it.”