MONTREAL — Jesperi Kotkaniemi says he’s never heard such a loud roar from the crowd on a night when the Montreal Canadiens set a record for the two fastest goals in NHL history.
Kotkaniemi scored his first two NHL goals as the Canadiens came from behind to beat the defending Stanley Cup-champion Washington Capitals 6-4 on Thursday night.
At 18 years and 118 days old, Kotkaniemi became the second youngest goal scorer in franchise history.
"It was a special moment to share that with the fans. That’s the best thing I can get," said Kotkaniemi. "It was pretty fun. That was pretty crazy. I’ve never heard a crowd like that."
The Finnish centre was all smiles after the game when he was given the game puck, which he said he might give to his mom.
"I hope she’s not crying now," said Kotkaniemi of his mother, who shed tears when her son scored a goal during the pre-season. "I hope she’s happy now."
The matchup pitted two Vezina Trophy winners against each other — Carey Price and Braden Holtby — but it didn’t look that way as the teams combined for 10 goals.
Kotkaniemi kick-started the avalanche of goals just 2:28 into the game. Playing his 12th match of the season, the Canadiens first-round draft pick beat Holtby with a wrist shot on a fast break.
The reaction from the crowd was deafening as the Finn entered the Canadiens record book. Only Mario Tremblay, at 18 years and 75 days old, was younger than Kotkaniemi when he scored his first goal in 1974.
"He’s already a favourite," said Canadiens bench boss Claude Julien. "Everybody sees the talent that he has, they see the potential that he has. He’s never looked out of place.
"He hasn’t disappointed at all. It’s nice that he’s finally scored because he’s had some chances before tonight. He’s a dangerous weapon. He’ll find seams that not too many players can do. There are a lot of reasons for us to like him and keep him here."
Kotkaniemi’s second of the night was even bigger than the first.
Losing 4-3 with time running out, Kotkaniemi tied the game with 3:04 remaining on the clock. Surrounded by three Capitals players, the young forward’s shot trickled past Holtby, who made 38 saves in defeat.
"To see (Kotkaniemi) light it up twice was pretty special," said Max Domi, who scored the game winner minutes later. "He deserves it and I can’t wait to see what the future is for him now.
"He’s been unbelievable since the start of the year. He’s a special player and he’s going to be really good player for a long long time in this league and for this team."
After the equalizer, Domi scored with 22 seconds left in the game when Holtby fanned on his wrist shot. Joel Armia added an empty-netter off the ensuing faceoff, a record-breaking two goals in two seconds.
The Canadiens (7-3-2) have yet to lose two consecutive games this season while the Capitals (5-4-2) have yet to win two straight.
"A lot of uncharacteristic mistakes for us," said Capitals forward Lars Eller. "Turnovers at the blue line, not executing passes in our own zone, fumbling the puck.
"Weird game. It’s not usually how we play."
After Kotkaniemi’s opener, Eller quieted the festivities at 6:16 of the first with his second of the season.
Brendan Gallagher gave Montreal a 3-1 lead with back-to-back goals in the first three minutes of the second period.
Alex Ovechkin potted his first of the encounter at 6:49 of the second before Eller, with his second of the game, tied things up at 7:59.
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s shot bounced off Ovechkin and in at 12:53 to give the Capitals a 4-3 lead. The Capitals captain has 11 points in his past seven games.
Price stopped 27-of-31 shots for his fifth victory of the season.
Notes: Paul Byron (lower-body injury) did not play. Andrew Shaw was back in the lineup. â€¦ Brooks Orpik (lower-body-injury) was out for Washington.