Recalled from the American League on seven occasions, goalie Filip Gustavsson finally received his first taste of NHL game action – albeit under extenuating circumstances.
The Ottawa Senators, already suffering with injuries to Matt Murray and Marcus Hogberg, saw another one of their goaltending fraternity go down when Joey Daccord dropped to the ice during an innocent play, 5:07 into the third period.
Daccord, who had started four straight games, clutched his left leg after crouching and sliding across the crease.
With the Senators trailing the Vancouver Canucks 2-1, it was up to Gustavsson to hold the fort for the final minutes, and give his team the opportunity to get back into the game.
A mere 27 seconds after the 22-year old entered the net, Gustavsson’s former AHL Belleville teammate Josh Norris squared it at two, beating Thatcher Demko.
The Skelleftea, Sweden native stopped all seven shots faced during regulation, including one from Canucks’ Bo Horvat in close to get his club to overtime. Gustavsson added one more save in extra time and managed to stymie the Canucks’ first three players in the shootout until Adam Gaudette slid the puck underneath him off a deke to win the game for Vancouver.
“It was kind of perfect. You don’t have time to think about it. You just jump straight into the game there. Of course, I was very nervous, but after the first shot, you jump straight into the game and what you’ve done for the past 15 years,” Gustavsson said postgame.
“I just wanted to get that first shot and feel it. I was still nervous for the rest of the game. I was kind of shaking in my legs. I just tried to play like I’d been playing in the AHL and back home in Sweden this year.”
Though he didn’t appear nervous, Gustavsson did have one instance where he had to be checked by trainers during a stoppage.
“Gus” explained, “It was kind of funny. When I get stressed, I can’t get blood into my hand. I couldn’t feel my right fingers at all. So we had to get a heat bag or something to try to get blood into it, so that I could play the puck for the first couple of minutes. It was kind of normal after that.”
With the AHL Canadian teams starting late, Gustavsson had appeared in only started six games for Belleville, compiling a 2.68 goals-against average, .909 save percentage. However, in his past two appearances, he posted a tidy 18-save shutout and made 45 stops, allowing three goals in a loss.
Acquired in the deal which eventually sent forward Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh, the Penguins’ 2016 second-round selection had played 19 games earlier in the season for Sodertalje in the Tier-1, Swedish Allsvenskan. Gustavsson earned a 2.30 GAA, .919 Sv Pct.
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The game proved to be a bit of redemption for Gustavsson who admittedly didn’t play as expected last season, “I had a rough last year. I came back this year. Lately, I’ve been playing good. Coming up and playing on the taxi squad and practicing with the team, you get way more comfortable. It’s a little bit easier when you know more guys on the team.”
Daccord, Norris, Drake Batherson, Christian Wolanin all spent time with Belleville in 2019-20.
“Before the game, they told me to practice with Belleville tomorrow and play Friday with them. It can change any moment.
Gustavsson told Full Press Hockey, familiarity with Belleville playing at the Canadian Tire Centre may have assisted his performance, “We’ve been playing here with Belleville this year. I felt comfortable because I’ve played here this year. That was probably helpful for me.”
Senators’ d-man Thomas Chabot who skated an incredible 34:50 in the game was impressed by Gustavsson’s short, but important stint in goal, “It’s a tough situation for him, for sure. First NHL game, he came in – gets in, in a really tight game and just shows you how good he is. He held his cool. He played well for us. He made some really big saves. He was up to the challenge.”
With the three goalies currently injured, the club is hoping to know the status of all this morning. The team’s next game is Monday versus the Calgary Flames.
Netminder Anton Forsberg was claimed off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday. However, he’s ineligible to play until the following Wednesday at the earliest due to quarantine protocol, and that would be without practicing.
“It’s unbelievable turn of events here, to have this many goalies out at one time. Thank God (GM) Pierre (Dorion) picked one up today. You go into the game that game, maybe a week ago – look at the depth chart how far you are – and all of a sudden you’re in there. I think it’s a lesson for everyone. You have to be ready every time. You never know when your time comes,” noted head coach D.J. Smith.
Prior to last night’s game, Gustavsson was told he would skate with Belleville Thursday and play Friday with the Baby Sens. He said, “It can change any moment.” Plans certainly may have for Filip Gustavsson.
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