|ZACH SANFORD, Capitals|
|FIRST NHL GOAL|
After 20 NHL games, Washington rookie Zach Sanford had accumulated just one point — an assist. Still, it’s pretty clear his role is to buy time with good defensive play for the rest of the high-flying Caps as they rev up their engines awaiting their hop over the boards. A plus / minus of minus-one for the season with next-to-no offensive contributions indicates Sanford fills his defensive assignments well.
Such an occasion probably occurred against the Ducks, when Sanford hit the ice in a tie game with about three minutes to play in regulation. Just keep Anaheim off the board and we’ll hit them with our top 6 forwards for the last two minutes, the thinking likely went.
This was a case, however, of the best-laid plans producing an outcome far greater than what was foreseen. The suddenly goal-hungry Brett Connolly made a strong entry into the Anaheim zone, pulling up on the outside of the left circle. He spotted Sanford comfortably alone in the high slot and put the puck right on the tape of his stick.
Sanford wasted not a second firing the puck. Ducks goalie John Gibson gave every indication he reads the scouting reports, as he paid far more attention to Connolly in a weak scoring spot than Sanford in a deadly one. And he paid the price, as his late move across the crease enabled Sanford to beat him in the direction he was coming from, though he was shielded somewhat by Anaheim’s Logan Shaw, who was in the shooting lane.
First-goal celebrations are always fun to watch, but rarely bring the house down as this one did. Sanford’s Capital mates immediately understood the significance of a first NHL goal being scored. But it was also super clutch, coming after Anaheim had scored two third period goals to tie the game. So after the Caps rookie had a moment of exultation with both arms raised high, he was quickly enveloped by the other skaters and the raucous cheers raining down at the Verizon Center.
|2/11/2017 vs. Anaheim.
Highlight available at NHL.com.