Toronto Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen simply couldn’t have picked a bigger moment to bury his first NHL goal.
The rookie is used to scoring crucial goals, but with time winding down in the third period on Saturday and the hopes of an organization and fan base desperately craving playoff hockey starting to fade, his game-tying goal against Pittsburgh may have been his biggest yet.
Kasperi Kapanen scores his first career NHL goal to tie the game up for the Leafs. 3-3 late in the third. pic.twitter.com/CPZPZJVg0G
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 9, 2017
After maneuvering around the slot and finding a bit of open space behind Penguins forward Matt Cullen, Kapanen put a beautiful feed from Matt Hunwick past Marc-Andre Fleury for his first career NHL goal. It was an absolutely critical one for the Maple Leafs, who went on to add two more goals late in the game to win 5-3 and clinch the team’s first playoff berth in a full season since 2003-04.
Kapanen, one of the key pieces involved in the Phil Kessel trade, played his first game of the season on March 28 against Florida and played nine games with the club last season. His milestone on Saturday was his first point in 16 career games.
Kapanen said he blacked out for a moment after scoring … similar emotion to world junior winner, he says
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 9, 2017
Kapanen’s no stranger to scoring the big goal. He notched of the most important goals in Finnish hockey history when he deposited a wraparound in overtime to lead his country over Russia in the 2016 World Junior Championship gold medal final.