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Sour Sutter Can’t Spoil Pelletier’s NHL Debut Or Big Win Over Bolts

Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter wasn’t in the mood to compliment his players on Saturday but the team was sharp in a 6-3 win that marked prospect Jakob Pelletier’s NHL debut.



It was Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter at his theatrical best. 

Or worst, really. 

Not that anything could wipe the smile off Jakob Pelletier’s face after his NHL debut in a 6-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but had he heard Sutter’s answer to the question about the 21-year-old prospect’s first game with the Flames after a couple of weeks of watching, it probably didn’t feel very good. 

“Jakob Pelletier, what number is he?” a particularly disinterested Sutter said after putting on his reading glasses and grabbing the game sheet to read out Pelletier’s stat line

“Six minutes 35 seconds. Thirteen shifts. Averaged 37 seconds a shift. Got 43 seconds on the powerplay. Played five minutes and 52 seconds even strength. Had one shot on goal and one hit.”

The numbers don’t paint a great picture, especially when you consider the delivery. 

But Pelletier looked pretty decent during the time he spent on the ice. He had a good chance early — Dillon Dube said later that fourth line inspired them — and definitely caused no harm over those 13 shifts. 

Sutter benched them for most of the second period for some reason, perhaps smelling blood against the Lightning, but Pelletier looked like a kid focused on his checking game after working through some nerves. 

“It’s the NHL, 21 years old, he’s got a long way to go,” Sutter said finally, moving on from the subject. 

Pelletier, though, should look at it as how far he’s already come. 

“It’s a dream come true,” Pelletier said afterward. “Since I’ve been probably four or five, the main goal is to play in the NHL. Today was the first one, so it’s great.

“It’s unreal. When I came out for warm-up, I was kind of stressed. First shift, too. But I think after the first one, I was like, it’s just playing hockey, right?”

The hockey was some of the best the Calgary Flames have played all season. Although Sutter was prickly about that, too. 

With goals from Nazem Kadri (on the powerplay), Tyler Toffoli, Rasmus Andersson, Dillon Dube and a couple of empty netters from Jonathan Huberdeau and Blake Coleman, the Flames showed tenacity in every puck battle, enjoyed a spirited scrap from Milan Lucic, and great goaltending from Dan Vladar. 

None of that was confirmed by Sutter, however. 

Lucic also made a great pass for an assist on Huberdeau’s empty netter. One of the rare times the winger really had no choice but to shoot. He carried the puck all the way to the empty cage to make sure. 

Dube’s winner was a remarkable shot on the rush — sprung by Andersson’s feed — a laser to the far side that was tucked under the crossbar. 

There was an energy to the game that belied the fact it was an afternoon start. It was worthy of the main event on CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada. 

A great place and time to debut for Pelletier, who soaked it all in starting with a lengthy rookie lap in warmup. He even took a pair of draws when Trevor Lewis got tossed. 

“I was like, man!” Pelletier said with a laugh. “I think in the AHL, I took probably like five faceoffs the whole year.

More fodder for Pelletier’s parents and family, which drove from Quebec City to Montreal to catch the last flight to Calgary on Friday night. 

They didn’t get to see a whole lot from their son, but what a game to witness. 

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