Through the wonders of the internet, a portal back in time came to attention about a random NHL goal. And a random goal indeed for former Penguin defender Alain Nasreddine.
In fact, take a moment to watch, it’s the only one of his NHL career.
(Tweet is mis-dated by a year, the game was actually December 16, 2006. As someone who writes thousands of words per week, it’s not tough to do)
12/16/07: PIT @ MTL: Alain Nasreddine, 1st of the season (1st of career) Assisted by Sidney Crosby and Mark Recchi pic.twitter.com/KzDzLFarQL— Random NHL Goal a Day (@NHLGoalADay) July 24, 2022
What a singular goal to score for Nasreddine. It was assisted by two Hall of Famers (Mark Recchi and the sublime pass from Sidney Crosby), was a nice goal right before the buzzer to end the period AND all happened in Nasreddine’s home town of Montreal....And on a Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada showcase, no less.
Given all of that it’s almost impossible to come up with better circumstances for a goal, aside from not getting the end result. The Penguins would lose the game that night to Montreal 6-3.
But how about that play of Crosby? He was 19-years old and embarking on his second NHL season above, and was already the best player in the game — as you can clearly tell from the video. 2006-07 would be Sid’s first Art Ross trophy for leading the league in scoring (he scored 36 goals and 84 assists for 120 points in 79 games that year) and also won his first Hart Trophy for NHL MVP and the Lester B. Pearson (since rebranded as the Ted Lindsay) for the player’s vote for MVP.
Nasreddine deserves credit as well. He’s a smart player who has carved out a second career from 2010 to the present being a coach with the WB/S Pens and later the New Jersey Devils, and now recently hired this summer to be an assistant with the Dallas Stars. That hockey IQ is on display from Naz, knowing that time in the period is running out and that he’s got no need to play defense or hang back any longer, since there isn’t enough time for Montreal to score. Nasreddine does what he surely saw Ryan Whitney do plenty in that day and age and cut to the net, knowing that Crosby would find him.
And find him, Crosby did. About five seconds into the video clip Crosby just kinda passes the puck to the corner to himself (big pop watching that) and hounds the puck in the corner, using his body to protect it as he has done so many times. The instant he sees his teammate going to the net the pass is fired on a line to create the scoring chance. The speed in which Crosby recognizes and sees the play develop and then delivers the perfect pass is still remarkable all these years later. Almost all Nasreddine has to do is keep enough pressure on his stick blade and it open enough for the puck to bounce off it. For Crosby, it was just Saturday. That’s how you get 84 assists in 79 games in a season, after all.
This Penguin team was in transition at this point. Ray Shero was just months on the job as general manager. Kris Letang was still in Quebec in juniors. Evgeni Malkin’s NHL career had only just started. There were random pieces from a by-gone era (Josef Melichar, Michel Ouellet) in the lineup that night, there were others who would still have to be traded (Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Ryan Whitney) before the Pens found their final form as a championship winning team.
But even back then in December 2006, some pieces of the team that would eventually lift the Stanley Cup in Detroit were already falling into place with Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Staal, Max Talbot, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi and Sergei Gonchar joining Malkin and Crosby in the lineup that night.
It’s always fun in the summer to see a highlight of a long forgotten goal. Probably isn’t so forgotten for Nasreddine, but for the rest of us it’s a nice look back at the magic that was.