John Scott can go home happy after possible NHL swan song

Jaromir Jagr assisted on both of Florida’s first two goals as the Panthers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1.

MONTREAL — If Tuesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers was John Scott’s NHL swan song, he made the best of every second — even the ones he didn’t spend on the playing surface.

It was through glassy eyes that he stared at reporters and cameras, waiting to deliver his final comments of the season — possibly the final ones of an eight-year pro career that took him through nine different cities — seven of them on the NHL circuit.

“I can’t imagine playing 82 games [at the Bell Centre], it’s such a good atmosphere,” said Scott. “I definitely took in a couple of moments and said, ‘Okay, you’re in Montreal,’ and this could be my last game. Hopefully not but yeah, you kinda look back on all the things you’ve done.”

Scott made his name throwing punches. It wasn’t his dream but it was the only way he could make a living in this league. In 285 games, he scored just five goals and added eight assists.

Scott dressed for just four games in the Stanley Cup playoffs — where fighting has been practically irrelevant for over a decade.

“I carved out my niche and bounced around defence to forward and played on a bunch of teams and got to know just a bunch of great guys,” said Scott. “I’ve had a good career.”

It probably ended with 14 shifts in Montreal Tuesday, all of them eventful in some way.

Scott was given the honour of starting the game opposite future Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr. They were two of four captains at NHL All-Star weekend in January, juxtaposed then and always by their respective abilities and by just about every other measure you could imagine.

Jagr jumped off the opening faceoff, corralled the puck, and found linemate Aleksander Barkov streaking down the left wing. Barkov fired the puck by Canadiens goaltender Mike Condon, and just like that, Scott was minus-1 less than a dozen seconds into his career with the Canadiens.

“You never want to give up a goal on the first shift,” said Scott. “You just gotta move on. You can’t really dwell on it.”

Scott charged through the neutral zone on his second shift and found diminutive linemate Paul Byron with a pass. Byron swooped in for a quality scoring chance that was turned aside by Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo.

It was on his fourth shift that Scott put all of his 6-foot-8, 260-pound frame into a thunderous hit on defenceman Alex Petrovic behind Florida’s net. The crowd serenaded him with cheers as he took a 15-stride skate back to Montreal’s bench. Then Scott brought the house down in the second period with a hit that dropped Panthers centre Greg McKegg to his knees. Seconds later he parked himself in front of Luongo and came close to batting a puck into the net.

With 5:52 left in the third period he took a high-sticking penalty.

Florida’s power play goal from forward Jiri Hudler, which gave them a 4-1 win with 1:29 remaining, enabled Scott to get back onto the ice once last time.

His final shift lasted 30 seconds but went by in the blink of an eye.

“We wanted to do the right thing,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien.

Therrien was referring to the Canadiens giving Scott an opportunity to play one game for their organization, the chance to be on the ice for the opening and closing shifts, the chance to return home to his wife and four children instead of going back to the American Hockey League for the St. John’s IceCaps’ remaining four games.

There was no mention of making amends for the trade that took Scott out of Arizona — out of the NHL — and shipped him to the Eastern-most point of Canada where he thought he’d remain through the end of the season.

According to Therrien, this was a “thank you for being a professional.”

“That’s just what this organization’s all about; it’s a class organization,” said Scott. “I don’t deserve any of this.”

But it was clear the Canadiens felt he did.

In his curtain call — much like he had throughout the season — Scott offered a valuable message for sports fans and media members to consider.

“I think it’s always important to realize that we are just normal people,” he said. “People put us up on these pedestals and they expect us to be like perfect humans, but I go home to my family just like everyone else in this locker-room. And we all have feelings and stuff like that. You know, it’s a good lesson.”

With his patented sense of humour, he then pushed all those heavy feelings aside.

“But again, whatever, I’m getting paid to play hockey so it’s not a bad thing.”

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