Saturday, October 7, 2017 - Submitted by Bernard McNamara
Walker steps onto the ice at the Capital One Arena. Photo: NBC
Australian hockey fans watched with baited breath as Nathan Walker made his NHL debut for the Washington Capitals today. The feisty forward certainly didn’t disappoint, scoring a goal in the Capitals 6-1 win over the Montreal Canadians.
Speaking about his NHL debut after the game, Walker was both happy and stunned.
"I'm lost for words, that's incredible, it was a really special and proud moment" said Walker.
Lead by Captain Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals jumped out of the gate scoring in the first 20 seconds of the game. Fans had barely caught their breath before T.J Oshie extended the home side’s lead when he banged home a rebound from the side of the net.
Walker provided immediate impact on the game: in his first shift, he was physical, laying body checks and forcing a turnover in the Canadiens’ zone. The pressure applied by Walker and his line mates led to the Canadiens taking the first penalty of the night and providing a key opportunity for the Capitals.
The Capitals power play didn’t waste any time getting on the board, Ovechkin found the back of the net for his second goal of the night, finishing off a nice passing play and firing home a puck over a sprawling Carey Price.
Ovechkin scored his hat trick in the dying seconds of the first period, deflecting a shot underneath the blocker of Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price, who was eventually benched after the first period, with the Capitals leading 4-0.
The Canadiens looked like a different team in the second period, they had their feet moving and peppered Capitals’ goalie Brayden Holtby with shots. The Canadiens finally got on the board through forward Brendon Gallagher with a shorthanded goal.
However the Capitals finished the second period strong, Ovechkin scored his fourth goal of the night, on a strong drive to the net before Walker closed out the period with his first goal of his NHL career.
Walker’s line mate, Jay Beagle won a faceoff in the offensive zone and got the puck to winger Devante Smith-Pelly, who wasted no time throwing the puck at the net. Walker had battled his way to the front of the net, and Smith-Pelly’s shot deflected off Walkers leg, giving the Capitals a 6-1 lead heading into the third period.
It's official, Nathan Walker records his first NHL career goal on debut with a deflection from Devante Smith-pelly. Source: NBC
The goal was originally credited to Smith-Pelly, however during the intermission break, the goal was reviewed and when the players returned the ice, it was announced that the Capitals sixth goal had been credited to Walker.
"It hit me on the left leg", said Walker, "at first i wasn't 100% sure if it was a stick or a puck, but i guessed they reviewed it before they announced it."
The telecast of the game showed Walker’s family Ceri, Wayne and Ryan Walker and fiancé Tayla Billinghurst celebrating in the stands waving an Australian flag. It was also announced that Australia’s Ambassador to the USA, the Hon. Joe Hockey was in attendance at the game.
Walker’s debut couldn’t have gone any better and his strong play is going to give coach Barry Trotz some tough decisions to make.
Trotz has indicated his fourth line roster spots are up for grabs with a logjam of players battling for positions. The Capitals are back in action on Tuesday morning when they travel to Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.