Wild rookie Brandon Duhaime has been the butt of his fair share of jokes in the locker room over the past week or so. And for good reason.
Ahead of his NHL debut last week, Duhaime stepped on a puck during the customary rookie lap and went tumbling onto the ice. Though he managed to quickly pop up before any of his teammates emerged from the tunnel, Duhaime eventually owned up to his mishap, prompting a good amount of ribbing on the bench.
Unfortunately for Duhaime, he gave his teammates more ammunition over the weekend. Fortunately for Duhaime, he scored the first goal of his NHL career in the process.
Early in Saturday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks at Xcel Energy Center, the 24-year-old Duhaime had his stick knocked out of his hands while battling for position in front of the net. He instinctively reached down to pick it up, and as luck would have it, ended up putting the puck in the back of the net.
With his skate. Without even knowing it.
“Yeah,” Duhaime said with a laugh. “The stick got knocked out of my hands and then turned around and the puck was in my feet going in the net.”
How did it happen? Well, as Duhaime reached down to pick up his stick, center Nico Sturm fired a shot that deflected wide of the net. Or it would have if Duhaime’s skate wasn’t in the right place at the right time.
“I think I blacked out,” Duhaime said. “Just looked in the net and it was there. Then everyone started coming to me.”
While it will go down as a milestone moment for Duhaime, it certainly won’t go down as the prettiest goal of his career. Maybe the literal opposite.
“It’s the ugliest first goal I’ve ever seen,” coach Dean Evason said.
“They are only going to get prettier from here,” center Ryan Hartman added.
Not surprisingly, Duhaime was a good sport about it. It helped that the Wild walked away with a 4-3 overtime win.
“They don’t ask how. They just asked how many,” Duhaime said. “Obviously, I would have liked to go coast to coast and score my first goal. But I’ll take that.”
More important for Duhaime, he’s making an impact night in and night out, playing alongside Sturm and opposite Nick Bjugstad. That explains why Evason has continued to play that line in every situation without hesitation.
“You have to do the things in order to build that trust, and he has,” Evason said. “That line was good. We didn’t get them as much as we should and that’s on me. It’s on us to get them involved a little more.”
Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen made his season debut against the Nashville Predators on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center with usual starter Cam Talbot getting the night off.