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Lightning’s Mitchell Stephens sparks first goal memories

The rookie scored his first goal on Saturday, a moment like few others
Tampa Bay Lightning center Mitchell Stephens celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Mitchell Stephens celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Dec. 31, 2019

Few things compare to the feeling of your first NHL goal. Mitchell Stephens learned that on Saturday, when he scored in his eighth game in the league.

The smiles are a little wider, the hugs a little bigger after your first. Each of the four other Lightning players on the ice came in with an extra helmet pat and comment for Stephens after he knocked his own rebound off a Canadien and into the net.

Related: Lightning overcome horrid start to beat the Canadiens

And then there was the water bottle shower after the game. While Stephens did a postgame interview on the bench, Steven Stamkos emptied a water bottle over his head. (Stephens didn’t miss a beat answering the question)

“It’s a great feeling all the way around,” coach Jon Cooper said Sunday morning. “It’s not necessarily myself, but you watch the team and how they react. Everyone is so aware of everything that’s going on. Everyone is racing to get the puck.”

Stephens called it a “pretty cool feeling,” but also deferred to the importance of the team win. Brayden Point highlighted how the goal fired up the whole building — the crowd and the bench.

Carter Verhaeghe was all smiles when he scored his first on Dec. 7, ending what he called the longest goal draught of his career. Point remembers relief when he scored his first Nov. 5, 2016.

“You work a lot, play a lot of hockey to get that moment,” he said. “It was pretty special, but just the relief of knowing you can do it, it can happen, was the biggest thing.”

Related: What did the Lightning do for Christmas?

Yanni Gourde calls his unreal. He recounts his shorthanded goal against Florida with someone on his back. The puck is on display at home.

“It was an electric moment,” he said. “I was really, really pumped. It’s something you dream of your whole life. When it happens its as nice as expected.”

Stephens’ goal made Gourde think about how many first goals he’s seen since he scored his back on March 11, 2017. He’s not sure of the number (at least six), but it’s always special.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.