First Goals: Alex Killorn’s first NHL goal immortalized on a hockey card

The 2012-13 Season saw many recognizable names tally their first NHL goal.

It’s summer. With more than a month to go until the season kicks off inspiration has to come from all sources.  Today’s post is brought to you by the good folks at Panini.

How does Panini describe the action for Killorn’s first career goal? The back of the card reads:

“Killorn was pushing the puck toward the Florida net late in the first period of a Feb. 16, 2013 game and had a split second to make a decision. He could’ve dropped it off to an open Vincent Lecavalier or pull the trigger himself. Killorn took the shot and got to celebrate his first career NHL goal.”

Let’s go to the video and see how it played out.

The copywriter for Panini has an interesting definition of “open”.  It looked like Lecavalier was pretty well covered by Mike Weaver. Killorn made some nifty moves to avoid the Florida defenders as well. He really had only one play and that was to put the puck on net. Should Jose Theodore have made the save? He probably should have stopped the other five goals he let in that night as well.

The player making the nice play at the blueline to keep the puck in the Florida zone was Matt Carle.

For Lightning fans, Killorn’s inclusion in the set is kind of odd. There are 20 total cards and the set features names such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Nail Yakupov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Leo Komarov. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems the Lightning had a plethora of other choices on their roster.

The 2012-13 season was a rough one that saw the ouster of Guy Boucher and the invasion of Jon Cooper and his merry Tampacusian men. Along with Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, and Radko Gudas also recorded their first NHL goals that season.

If Panini could do it all over again, Johnson or Palat would probably be the pick. At the time the card was published (summer of 2013) Killorn wasn’t a horrible choice. During his rookie season he averaged almost 17 minutes a game and had 19 points in 38 games (and finished 19th in the Calder Trophy voting!). He was a third-round pick with size and a strong collegiate background (he’s a Harvard man, if you didn’t know). At the time Johnson and Palat were nice success stories but hadn’t made their mark on a league-wide level yet because they had spent most of the season in the AHL.

The goal was Killorn’s second point of the season. He picked up an assist a week earlier in a 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers (Dan Girardi had 2 assists for New York). He doubled his scoring output the next season and has consistently averaged around 40 points a season for his career. He has also provided much joy with his beautiful social media friendship with Andrej Sustr and is responsible for one of the prettiest goals in Lightning postseason history.

WIth that production he was rewarded with a 7-year, $4.45 AAV contract prior to last season. The length and cost has rankled some fans who think the money could be a hinderance down the line if his play doesn’t improve.

For fun, let’s look at some of those other players and their first career NHL goals that season.

Richard Panik:

The Pete Best of The Triplets scored his first goal a few games after Killorn.  He takes a pass from Adam Hall and streaks across the blue line. His first attempt from just inside the circle is fought off by  Dan “Escrow” Ellis. Panik pounces on the rebound and tries to chip it over Ellis who makes a nice save, but Panik doesn’t stop his trip behind the net and gets to the puck for a third chance which he backhands into the empty net. Not a great shift for Carolina defender Michal Jordan.

Tyler Johnson:

Why, who is that working hard to keep the puck in, dangling with it while on one knee and whipping a blind, spin-around, bank pass off the boards? It’s Mr. Alex Killorn!  Exactly a month after the Harvard man scored his first goal,  he sets up Johnson with a great individual effort. The diminutive forward (wearing number 63) roofs it over Justin Peter’s glove for the first of his 89 career regular season goals.

Ondrej Palat:

Later in that same very game, Ondrej Palat would record his first goal as well.  It wasn’t as pretty as Johnson’s, in fact, Palat never touched it with his stick.  Instead the Czech forward, also wearing an unfamiliar number (74), moved to the front of the net and had Sami Salo’s shot from the point deflect off his skate and past Peter’s in net.

Radko Gudas:

Four days later, the big-bearded defender notched his first tally against the Toronto Maple Leafs. After BJ Crombeen chips it deep into the Leafs zone and PC Labrie helps it around the boards, Gudas flings it toward the net where the puck takes the slightest of touches off of Jake Gardiner’s stick. The change of trajectory is enough to overwhelm James Reimer and the puck is in the back of the net.

Can we talk about that line for a minute? Name a grittier line than Crombeen, Nate Thompson and Labrie that’s played for the Lightning in the last decade. You can’t!

There were a lot of firsts that season. It was also the first time that Lightning fans saw the nucleus of the current team that, when healthy, can compete with any team in the league. Despite the notion that Killorn may not be producing to his fullest potential he is a vital part of the team. Hopefully, with a bit more stability in the roster this season he takes his production to another level.