Richard Panik is well aware of the fact that he is a skilled winger capable of pulling off some pretty fancy moves, he said.
But occasionally, when caught in a tight space or left at a bad shooting angle, he has a tendency to “just let instincts take over.”
That’s precisely what happened on Saturday night, when preceding a 5-2 Lightning win at Carolina against the division-rival Hurricanes, Panik registered his first career goal in the National Hockey League.
And even more that, it stood up as the game-winner to help the Bolts claim sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division.
“Pretty good,” Panik said. “I went back to the bench and everyone was giving me congratulations. I was excited.”
As he should have been, considering the goal was considered by many to be of the “highlight reel” variety.
With Panik steaming in alongside the right side of the net, he fired a shot that was initially stopped, but not contained, by Hurricanes goaltender Dan Ellis.
Panik then found the rebound and flipped a cross-crease pass to himself over Ellis before backhanding the puck into the net.
“It was sick,” head coach Guy Boucher said. “It was just sick. That’s what it was.”
Boucher, though, was hardly surprised, as he knows all too well the specifics of what Panik can do with a puck and his stick.
“You should see the stuff he comes up with,” Boucher added. “He puts it in the skates, he spins, and he does all sorts of stuff. He’s very quick to think of things that nobody else does.”
Panik said it is all just part of his game, but creativity and confidence have come into play recently, as he grows more comfortable within his role on the team and among a number of seasoned veterans in the locker room.
One thing is for sure though, and that is that the goal will most likely serve as just the first of many for Panik, who appears to have a bright future ahead for himself.
“I’m just trying to do the simple things and play a solid all-around game, but anytime I get the opportunity to do something crazy, I will,” Panik said. “It feels good to have the first one behind me now.”
As for the whereabouts of the commemorative puck, the team will have it framed before giving it to Panik as a keepsake, which he says will probably sit on display on a shelf in his home.
“A very special moment,” Panik added. “I’ll remember it forever.”
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