RALEIGH, N.C. — The thing about scoring a goal into one's own net is that it is so unexpected.
Think about it.
Players fight and claw and scratch for 60 minutes to keep the puck out of their net, so when a player chalks one up for the opposition, it is as if the equilibrium of the sport has been hip checked.
Such was the case Saturday, when Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger inadvertently shot the puck past goalie Mike Smith to give the Thrashers their first goal of the season en route to a 6-3 victory.
"It happens," Ranger said. "It still hurts."
The key is getting over the hurt, and quickly, because, as Ranger explained after Sunday's practice at the RBC Center, "A fluke thing like that, you can't let it affect you if you want to play your best. It's that simple."
And that's what it is, right, a fluke?
Defenseman Matt Walker said shooting a puck into one's own net is the same as if the puck gets past the goalie by deflecting off the skate of a teammate.
Left wing Ryan Malone called it "part of the game." And coach Rick Tocchet said, "It's no big deal" and worthy of "a few jokes" from teammates.
"It's on you to let it go, and sometimes humor helps," Tocchet said. "There's nothing wrong with that. I've been in situations myself where something happens really freaky. It just takes teammates to joke around to let the pressure get away from you."
Because defensemen are around the net so much, such occurrences do seem to happen more to them.
Exhibit A: Montreal defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, who last season, with his goalie pulled during a delayed penalty, shot a puck into his own net.
Exhibit B: Former Lightning defenseman Shane O'Brien, now with the Canucks, who did the same thing.
The granddaddy of them all: an own goal by Edmonton defenseman Steve Smith, off the skate of goalie Grant Fuhr, that gave the Flames the deciding tally in Game 7 of a 1986 division playoff series.
"Devastating," Tocchet said.
Otherwise, Walker said, "completely throw it in the garbage."
Walker apparently is some kind of expert. He joked, "My first few years in the league, I had way more goals against my own team than the opposition."
That is why he felt qualified to say, "It's a fluke play. It's bad luck. You can't think about it more than two seconds."
Added Malone: "If you keep dwelling on it, your next shift is not going to be good. It's a break for the other team. You shrug it off and keep going."
The break for the Thrashers came after Lightning goalie Smith stopped an Ilya Kovalchuk backhand and the puck rebounded in front of the net.
"I was skating as hard as I could back," Ranger said. "I overskated the puck and instinctually tried to reach out for it, and it bounced off my stick and in."
"I don't think I've ever put one in like that," said Tocchet, who shrugged and added, "Just chalk it up to something really weird."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.