VANCOUVER — Hockey being the love affair that it is in Canada, more than a few of the puck-besotted Canucks fans in the stands at Rogers Arena on Saturday night no doubt had yet to recover from the Game 7 smackdown the Bruins dealt them in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Then, with 47.1 seconds remaining in what became an unexpected squeaker against those guys with the Spoked-B on their sweaters, those Canucks fans watched Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark sail his 160-foot somewhere-over-the-stinkin’-rainbow wrister into an empty net.
Final score: Bruins, 3-1, and … goodnight … moon.
Just like that, the joint emptied out in near silence, with the league-best, 45-8-5 Bruins high-stepping their way out into a rare snowy night in this idyllic Pacific city.
In the NHL’s century-plus history, only 15 goalie goals ever had made it on to the scoresheet, Ullmark making it a sweet 16 when he alertly corralled the puck and took aim like a keen-eyed Markus Naslund, the beloved ex-Canucks forward who scored 395 NHL goals and once played for Modo, the same Swedish junior team that delivered Ullmark to North America.
Ullmark’s shot had lift. The shot had hang time. The shot had length. The shot had pace. Finally, the shot had … the back of the net.
The 29-year-old Ullmark became the first Bruins goalie ever to “go rink,” the first in the NHL since Pekka Rinne did it for Nashville on Jan. 9, 2020.
With Friday’s NHL trade deadline fast approaching, every team in the Stanley Cup hunt is looking to add scoring depth. Who knew the Bruins would find theirs right in their No. 1 backstop, who leads all NHL goalies in wins (30), goals against average (1.86) save percentage (.938) … oh, and you know, goal scoring (1).
“Very true!” a jovial coach Jim Montgomery said on Saturday night, a reporter noting Ullmark had checked “scoring depth” off the search list. “I’m really happy for him. He almost had one earlier in the year in the Winter Classic … and [Jeremy] Swayman thought about it one game, too. Yeah, it’s good to have talented goaltenders.”
Of course, had the shot missed, Ullmark would have been guilty of icing the puck, setting up the Canucks for a faceoff in his end and with 47.1 seconds to even the score. The shoot-first “Ullie” no doubt would have embraced a faceoff as yet another scoring opportunity.
The best goalies like to boast they “eat” pucks. Ullmark, 6 feet 5 inches and 212 pounds, clearly has a bigger appetite.
Tempting the icing fates are the risks a swashbuckling team can take. The .819 Bruins have banked 95 points and are on the verge of entering March with a chance to pile up more points than any team in NHL history.
For the record, not even Ken Dryden, the Hall-of-Famer who backed the historic 1976-77 Canadiens to their 132 points, ever put one in the back of the other team’s net. Jose Theodore is the lone Habs goalie with a goal, collecting his on Jan. 2, 2001.
Since setting up for NHL play at Boston Arena in the fall of 1924, no Bruins goalie had ever scored, be it as a member of the Black and Gold, or pre- or post- playing for the team.
In that sense, Ullmark truly became a one-of-a-kind Bruin, albeit in an industry that posits all goalies as, shall we say, unique.
“What a shot! I hope he gets more,” said newcomer Garnet Hathaway, the ex-Capitals forward who made his Bruins debut the same night Ullmark shot the odds and the odds lost. “That was awesome.”
Ullmark, tugging on postgame workout clothes and tying up sneakers before he talked with the media, said he had to tamp down his emotions before trying to put words to his thoughts.
“Well, I just had to take my chances,” said Ullmark, now in year No. 2 of the four-year/$20 million free-agent pact he signed upon leaving the Sabres. “I don’t really know what to say. I’m ecstatic inside.”
The feat itself, a work of art given full voice by the play-by-play calls of Jack Edwards (NESN) and Judd Sirott (98.5 The Sports Hub), was only trumped by the ensuing on-ice celebration.
In front of his net, shooting star No. 35 instantly became the epicenter of a hugfest that included defensemen Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort, as well as “Perfection” linemates Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.
It must be duly noted that Ullmark outscored Pastrnak, who ended the night stuck on 42 goals, second only to the Oilers’ Connor McDavid (48). This could be enough for Pastrnak, on target as a soon-to-be free agent to sign the richest deal in franchise history, to scribble on the dotted line before his stock plummets. What if Swayman outscores him Monday night in Edmonton?! This could get a little uncomfortable for “Pasta.”
“He’s just doing it all this year,” said Marchand, admiring Ullmark’s keen eye. “I’m sure he’ll be on the power play next.”
Marchand noted Ullmark has been “phenomenal” this season, and never more than when he snapped off the seeing-eye, looping wrister, which didn’t fall from its glide path until it touched ground well beyond Vancouver’s defensive blue line.
“[I kind of] got that sense at some point it was going to happen,” added Marchand. “It was either him or Sway, they both shoot the puck very well and I think they’ve both been itching to do it. Incredible to see. I mean, it doesn’t happen often. [It] just tops off an incredible season for him.”
Amid the celebratory scrum, one of the five skaters hugging Ullmark insisted he maintain everyday scoring tradition with a skate-by along the Bruins bench, to trade glove bumps with all his other teammates. Like a band of bouncing, hugging peewees, they already had the party in progress before Ullmark arrived. He batted their extended hands with the back of his oversized left glove as he zipped by the length of the bench.
Defenseman Dmitry Orlov, the other first-night Bruin acquired from the Capitals, got the first bump, and Hathaway the last. Ullmark completed the impromptu “celly line” party with an emphatic final slap on Hathaway’s glove and spun around matador-style to return to net for the ensuing faceoff.
“I don’t know who it was, but someone told me, ‘You [have to] go to the bench. You [have to] go to the bench,’ ” said Ullmark. “So I appreciate that gesture from them.”
Not all goalie goals are created equal. In seven of the 16 cases in which goalies have been credited with scoring, it was the result of an opponent putting the puck in his own net, after the goalie at the other end last touched it. Ullmark was the ninth to shoot and score.
“It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling right now,” said the Swedish sharpshooter. “I have to kind of digest it all. I’m just so bloody happy.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.