RALEIGH – The post-game Storm Surge included a Halloween trick that saw players collect candy in their helmets from the bench.
However, the real treat came 10 minutes earlier when Andrei Svechnikov is believed to have made NHL history with the league’s first lacrosse-style goal from behind the net.
You know, the kind the YouTube generation has grown up watching and practising courtesy of the odd European or collegian with magic mitts.
It came with the host Carolina Hurricanes down 1-0 midway through the final period.
In a sequence where the Flames turned the puck over twice, the 19-year-old winger found himself alone behind the Calgary Flames net, with enough time and space to try something he’s had up his sleeve for years.
Flipping the puck onto the blade of his left-handed stick, he quickly wrapped it around to the right side of Flames goaltender David Rittich, jamming it into a five-inch gap between the netminder’s helmet, the post and the crossbar.
The crowd at PNC Arena went wild, as it should.
“Actually, I was practising that this morning, that move,” the Canes’ talented first rounder told the frenzied gathering in a rink-side interview afterwards.
“I was dreaming to score that goal.”
Dreams can come true, much to the delight of social media, which is already having a field day with this one.
“I try it with (coach) Rod (Brind’Amour) a lot,” said Svechnikov.
“He pass me and I go behind the net and try that move every practice. I tried it last year (against the Islanders) and I tried it a couple years ago in the OHL, but I got crossbar. I had room a little bit here and it was a great try for me.”
He said he first saw the move executed by Finland’s Mikael Granlund against Russia at the 2011 world championships.
“My brother teach me how to do that move,” said the beaming Russian, who insisted he’s never played lacrosse.
“Everyone was just excited and so happy – it was emotional.”
It came at critical time too, as it swung the momentum in a game that saw him score the winner with a point blast two and a half minutes later, for his fourth goal in two outings.
Rittich, understandably, wasn’t as pumped about it.
“How do you defend that? I don’t know,” said Rittich, whose squad lost its second-straight game late, 2-1.
“Good play. Smart. Sick, sick move by him. I don’t know what I can say about it. I have to see it on video and see what I can do better.”
Short of Rittich standing up, there’s always going to be a hole of some size there.
“Probably there will be. But he did a good move, that’s all I have to say about that,” he said. “I went pretty high with my shoulder, but there was still a hole for the puck.”
The only piece Rittich got of it was the stick to the head for his efforts.
“I also got a stick to the nuts, too, but the referee didn’t call that (either),” said Rittich.
He was referencing a play one minute later when Erik Haula jammed at a rebound that clearly caught Rittich in an awkward spot, prompting the puck to squirt loose for a tap-in goal. It was immediately waved off but no penalty was called.
A mere 3:22 after his first goal, the second-pick overall in 2018, struck again and the Flames had squandered a third-consecutive, third period lead.
“They were skating better than us – they were all over us,” said Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, who has also likely dreamed of scoring a filthy one like Svechnikov.
“We weren’t necessarily sitting back, but they just took it to us, had all the momentum in the world. That guy scored an awesome goal to make it 1-1 and then they still have all the momentum in the world and then I take probably an undisciplined penalty that I’d like to have back. Just undisciplined, and you can’t have that when they’re all over us with the momentum. And then it’s 2-1 and we just couldn’t find the answer. We have to do a better job of protecting leads in the third and not protecting them but building off it, getting that insurance marker and going from there. We’ve been in that similar position too much this year.”
No NHL goaltender has ever been in the position of having one of those elevated wraparounds beat him, begging questions of the Flames’ goalie coach, Jordan Sigalet, about how to prevent it.
“We usually have a guy on that strong post to keep him from coming out,” said Sigalet.
“All you can do in that situation is try to seal with your head. David tried to get his head over there, kind of met the puck at the same time and bounced off. You don’t see it very often. Definitely a skill play, a smart play. It’s tough to stop when they execute it perfectly. It’s the last thing you really expect when they can get it up that quick.”
“Sometimes you have to tip your hat, for sure. It takes some poise to get that puck up on your stick and get it up there. Usually you see guys try it and it rolls off their stick … you’ve got to give the guy some credit, too. A heck of a play by him.”
The attempt would have been fascinating enough.
The execution, sublime – a moment frozen in NHL time.
“I don’t think it’s been done in the national league before,” said Haula, whose teammates could barely control their excitement after both the goal and game.
“I saw him trying a couple times and he kept trying. A third period goal like that – it wasn’t like it was a 5-1 game. It was a game-tying goal. It takes a lot of creativity and skill. I’m happy for him.”
How do his attempts usually end up?
“Usually we run him over and have him land on his back,” joked Haula.