After saying he couldn’t wait to play at the Bell Centre post-practice Friday, Shane Pinto didn’t disappoint. The 20-year old centre played a solid support role, adding an assist on Nikita Zaitsev’s empty-net goal in the Senators 4-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Goaltender Matt Murray earned his first shutout since October 26, 2019, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Drake Batherson notched a career-high two goals, one assist. Josh Norris and Brady Tkachuk each chipped in with a pair of assists in the victory at the Bell Centre.
Though there were many great performances in the game, the focal point of Senators’ fans was the eagerly awaited debut of Pinto.
Becoming the team’s fifth player to make their debut this season along Bernard-Docker, Filip Gustavsson, Tim Stützle, and Artem Zub, the Senators 32nd overall 2019 Entry Draft selection fared well in limited ice time.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) April 17, 2021
Including securing his first NHL point from a defensive zone faceoff win, Pinto won four of six draws: the Hobey Baker Award nominee was a plus-one; made two shot attempts; played 15 shifts for a 9:24 total of ice time, 1:03 of which were on the Senators’ penalty kill; and was credited with one hit and a game-high three takeaways.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) April 17, 2021
Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith was impressed with the youngster’s game and would’ve liked to have awarded Pinto more ice time.
“I’d like to have got him a little more (ice time). You could see he has good hockey sense. It’s tough on the road, I can’t get him the matchup, but you can see he has really good hockey sense. He won important faceoffs and gets himself an assist. He knows where to be on the ice. He’ll only continue to get better,” said Smith post-game.
If Pinto was indeed a “little nervous” to make his first NHL appearance, it certainly didn’t show.
“I thought we had a good game. It was great to get the win. I got the first one out of the way. It’s good to settle in, and hopefully I’ll just continue to get better. That first shift I think you’re a little nervous. The guys just did a great job of calming me down. They reminded me it’s just hockey. It’s your first NHL game, but I just had to have that mindset going in, and I did just that.”
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The National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s top forward lent credit to his coaches.
“I thought the coaches did a good job of kind of preparing me as much as they could. But at the end of the day, you just have got to play hockey, go off your instincts – that’s what I did.”
A two-way player at UND, Pinto was happy to receive a couple of shifts on the Senators penalty kill. The six-foot-two, 192-pound Pinto was front and centre on his first PK shift, knocking down a pass and sending it down ice.
“It’s awesome. Obviously, that was very cool to be given a lot of responsibility by the coaching staff to give me that. It was really cool,” noted Pinto.
Of the takeaway at his team’s blue line, Pinto told Full Press Hockey, “I think the coaching staff is trying to make sure to work out the details of my game. I try to bring that to the next level. It’s a lot about positioning. I take pride in that, so hopefully, I can do that.”
One downfall of playing during the pandemic, the lack of fans in Canadian NHL buildings. Normally, Pinto’s parents, Bill and Catherine would’ve made the trek from Franklin Square, NY on Long Island.
However, Pinto is hopeful they’ll get watch him play next season at the Canadian Tire Centre.
One thing is for certain, now that Pinto’s first game is in the books, he’s more than ready for what the future lies.
“I think it helps a lot to get that first one out of the way. But it felt pretty good to build that confidence. I know it’s not going to get any easier. Each team is going to get tougher and tougher each game. I’m not going to look to much into this game. I know it’s exciting, but it’s going to be a grind down the stretch. I have to be ready for it.”
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