COLUMBUS, Ohio. — Jared McCann scored what might go down as one of the NHL season's most underappreciated highlight-reel goals Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.
The guy sees the puck in mid-air, reaches behind him, taps the puck around Scott Harrington and is off to the races.
Sure, McCann's second goal on the night was a snipe in its own right, but it was the self-made buildup that made it special. I have photos, but they don't do this majestic unicorn of self-creation the justice it deserves:
Let's step aside from the goal for a minute to look at the big picture.
One of my big criticisms of the Penguins' secondary scorers, or lack of secondary scoring, is that they've often lacked guys who show a willingness to create on their own and to shoot the puck in a game where it's become obvious that the puck luck is signaling "SHOOT!"
It was a big criticism I had of Conor Sheary (when he wasn't playing alongside Sidney Crosby). It's why I think Bryan Rust serves the Penguins better away from the top line where he can help to produce in self-made opportunities and away from a line with plenty of scoring chances.
The collective "shoot" heard in every arena on the continent can often be misguided as teams work through their power play system, but not in this Penguins team's case. It's been a problem, and as Mike Sullivan has pointed out, this team tries too often to "pass the puck into the net."
I asked the coach about that after the game, particularly whether it was a game where the result was ultimately decided by his guys being willing to put the puck on net:
His take on shooting hasn't been lost on McCann. He noticed from the drop of the puck that the ice was "chippy" and it was reason enough for the man dressed in No. 19 to take his chances. I asked him about the play and needing to just shoot sometimes:
This goal doesn't possess the flair that a Crosby one-handed backhand or baseball swing has. It doesn't have the aesthetic appeal of Rust driving through the goalie and giving up the body to score a finesse goal on a power move.
But, it does show that while the Penguins might not have gone after or landed a Matt Duchene-sized fish ahead of the NHL trade deadline, they found themselves a gamer who can add goals without being paired with either of the team's top centers -- and that's a straight up necessity in a Mike Sullivan system.
As Dejan Kovacevic and I reported in Friday Insider from our time in Florida hunting Penguins, McCann was a piece that almost broke the deal for the Panthers. They didn't want to give him up.
And now, he is proving he might be the missing piece for a team in desperate need of shooters to be a boost on the scoreboard.
The first image above is of McCann shooting the dang puck, creating on his own. But then I rewind to where that sequence starts, and my view of him just before knocking the puck out of the air to himself. Then it heads to another look at his shot and then the celebration.
This is going to be a memorable one for me this season.
I'll also remember a sequence after this goal was scored when the Jackets were trying to get back into it. Sergei Bobrovsky hit the bench, and I was watching for McCann to jump the boards and try for a trick -- especially with the number of Penguins fans in attendance (take another look at those celebration photos).
Hat tricks are fun, but at the end of the day -- they don't really matter. And, it looked like Sullivan deemed it more important to get his newly formed power play onto the ice with a full set of defensemen.
McCann was watching his coach to see what to do, he took a seat with a bit of a frown and that's when Garrett Wilson showed off his captain muscles (served as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain this season) and wrapped his arm around McCann.
Here are those three photos:
[caption id="attachment_782165" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_782166" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_782167" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
McCann didn't seem to mind riding the bench to ensure the two points for his team. Secondary scorers aren't always the most celebrated, even when they're the game's No. 1 star, as McCann was in Columbus.
But, he, the primary scorers, and everyone else in the room was happy to get those two points, as McCann was ever so happy to relay in the locker room after the game.
“I don’t really have a personal agenda or anything like that," McCann told me of missing out on a hat trick opportunity. "So we got two points. That’s all that matters.”