It may not have been a highlight reel goal, but Zemgus Girgensons prefers it that way.
The Buffalo Sabres' first-round draft pick scored his first professional goal on Friday in the Rochester Americans' 3-2 shootout win over the Hamilton Bulldogs at Blue Cross Arena.
Midway through the first period, Girgensons opened the scoring by tapping an Alex Biega point shot past Bulldogs goaltender Robert Mayer.
“It was good to get that off my shoulders,” the Amerks' rookie said. “I was just battling with the d-man and tied up sticks with him and it hit both of our sticks.”
"I'll take the greasy one, that doesn't matter to me."
While Girgensons was relieved to have scored his first goal, he said Friday night's game was one of the strongest he's played in the American Hockey League.
“I think in this game I was really skating well,” he said. “I was feeling really good about myself, every time I'm getting more pucks and making more plays.”
At only 18-years-old, Girgensons is one of the youngest players in the league. The Amerks are still easing him into the action.
“I think he's been playing well during this stretch of games,” coach Ron Rolston said. “It's just about getting his confidence offensively. He's got a lot of touches on the puck, now it's about him figuring out to create offense. One of the ways is getting to the net and he was able to do that tonight.”
Goalie David Leggio was very strong again in net, stopping 29 of 31 shots and three out of four in the shootout. In typical fashion, he was unhappy with himself for allowing the one shootout goal.
Leggio has taken on the role of a leader on the Amerks, but he also keeps everyone loose. After Marcus Foligno sealed the win with a low wrister past Mayer, Rochester's goalie broke out with a dance at the blue line.
“I saw Fred Jackson – he's my favorite – do 'The Bernie,'” Leggio said. “I really wanted to stop the last shooter so I could do 'The Bernie,' but I must have been thinking too much about 'The Bernie.'”
If you are wondering what The Bernie is, you can see Jackson do it here.
Leggio has played every game for the Amerks. He's 6-3-1 with a .902 save percentage. He's won both shootouts this year and stopped eight of nine shots faced.
“He's really good,” Rolston said, marveling at his goalie's success in the shootout. Last year, he stopped 80 percent of shootout shoots and 88.9 percent the year before.
Amerks winger Frederick Roy pummeled Bulldogs' right wing Brandan Gallagher. Roy is only listed at 5-foot-10, 168-pounds, but has played very well as a grinder. His fight with Gallagher was his first of the year, but not his first ever.
“I like to go once in awhile,” Roy said. “It was the right moment to get some sparks going for the team.”
Roy has solidified a spot left by an injury to Max Legault. He's played in six games and is plus-3.
Mark Pysyk – Making progress with each game on the defensive end. Saw seven power play shifts. Only Foligno had more.
Marcus Foligno – This was his type of game – physical. Played hard from start to finish and netted the game-winner in the shootout.
Brayden McNabb – Struggled at times to control the puck, most likely because of bad ice conditions with several events held at BCA this week.
Evan Rankin – Took a lot of punishment down low, but kept getting up. One of the reasons he's on the top line.
Luke Adam – Fans are becoming restless with Adam. Several more chances to score and he couldn't put one in.
Brian Flynn – Scored a shootout goal. Shows flashes of a lot of skill, but hasn't done it night after night
TJ Brennan – Played on eight short-handed shifts. He's been focusing on the defensive side and it shows