It would’ve been the perfect capper on a sweet night of relief for James van Riemsdyk.
Down by three goals to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper yanked goaltender Ben Bishop with five-and-a-half minutes(!) remaining in Thursday’s game.
Van Riemsdyk had already snapped a three-game goal-less skid by potting two beauties in a row. He fired at the empty cage from just over centre and missed — a couple inches away from becoming the first Leaf to register a natural hat trick on home ice since Wendel Clark did it in 1996.
Still, JVR’s first two-goal game of the season gives the big winger nine, on pace for 37. And it’s the way he scored his ninth — in super tight, lifting the puck straight up to tuck ‘er under the crossbar at a sharp angle — that impresses.
The cool thing about that shot, now a JVR staple, is that he practises it towards the end of every warm-up skate. Sportsnet’s Eric Prime captured the routine on this great Instagram post: