Jonathan Huberdeau started the play, firing a hard breakout pass to Nazem Kadri. The second half of the Calgary Flames’ French Connection finished it off.
Speeding his way up the middle of the ice, Jakob Pelletier sprinted nearly 200 feet, collecting Kadri’s perfect pass at the hash marks and firing an even more impressive shot past Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
It was Pelletier’s first NHL goal.
More importantly, it was the spark the Calgary Flames needed to turn a 2-0 first-period deficit into a 7-2 victory.
"He's such a likeable kid. Guys feed off it,” Flames head coach Darryl Sutter told reporters in Buffalo post-game.
"He starts below our goal line and ends up at their goal line. I've said it all along about that kid — I said it at training camp and I said it over and over — he's got the energy and he's got the spirit for the game. He will be a good player.”
He’s certainly showing signs of it on the ice. Although that goal was his first and only point in seven NHL contests so far, he’s had a lot of opportunities while averaging two shots per game. Pelletier’s work ethic and ability to battle for pucks despite his small stature is notably similar to the skill set teammate Andrew Managiapane showcases nightly.
Pelletier’s goal at 2:17 of the second triggered an offensive onslaught. Mikael Backlund scored his 10th of the year just 20 seconds later to tie the game at 2-2, negating the Tage Thompson and Casey Mittelstadt openers. Defenceman Dennis Gilbert, a product of Buffalo who was called up because of the Rasmus Andersson scooter crash, scored his first NHL goal to pad less than 90 seconds after that one. And Kadri scored his team-leading (at the time) 20th at the 7:39 mark. Both Gilbert and Pelletier had plenty of family members taking in the action, which made the night even more special for both.
The Flames didn’t stop there. Tyler Toffoli scored two in a row in the third period to leapfrog Kadri with his 20th and 21st goals. Dillon Dube capped off a career-high four-point night with 13th goal of the season.
Many of the Calgary Flames credited the excitement and energy brought by Pelletier and his big moment.
"Obviously, Pelts got us going. The excitement of his first goal shifted the momentum a little bit,” said Toffoli. “Then Backs, next shift. Then Gibby, next shift. Felt like everything kept coming in waves and we did a really good job.
"We were all joking saying it was about time and it finally it happened. I said to him after the game, 'Congratulations, but don't stop at one.'”
It hardly seems like that will be a problem. Bonus points if fellow Francophone Huberdeau benefits from the youthful exuberance.
Pelletier shared a photo of the game puck with his linemates in the locker-room later, and all three wore massive smiles.
— Jakob Pelletier (@jak_pelletier) February 12, 2023
None bigger than the rookie, of course.
"I was like, 'Come on, Pelts. Come on, man, let's go!’" Pelletier said of his lengthy sprint and shoot milestone. "The past three or four games, I think I've had some good chances. Couldn't score. So tonight, it feels pretty good."
For him, and for the team.
First goals and big wins will do that.