(CP) — Vancouver Canucks forward Steve Pinizzotto made his National Hockey League debut on Thursday night and didn’t waste much time making an impact.
In just his first shift in the Canucks’ 7-4 victory, the 28-year-old winger sent Nashville’s Kevin Klein crashing to the ice with a big hit before fighting the Predators’ defenseman.
"I just had a ton of built-up energy and had to release it somehow," said Pinizzotto, who had been recalled from the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves earlier Thursday. "But, yeah, you can’t really explain stuff like that, you kinda got to live it and it was just a great feeling.
"I’m an energy guy and hopefully you can just boost the team up by that way."
The Mississauga, Ont., native was signed as a free agent by the Canucks in July 2011, but his debut was delayed after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the 2011-12 pre-season.
That was followed by a groin injury that prevented him from competing for a roster spot before this season.
So it’s easy to understand his joy at finally realizing a dream that was close to three decades in the making.
"It was good, exciting, fun, I could say a million things," he said. "You wait a long time, 28 years, and it was good, but most importantly the team won and that’s even more exciting."
Pinizzotto, who won back-to-back Calder Cup championships with the Hershey Bears in 2009 and 2010, received just over 11 minutes of ice time against the Predators and aside from his fighting major, took one shot and dished out a team high four hits.
It was a performance that pleased Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault.
"First game, for what I put him through today, I thought he responded real well," Vigneault said. "I mean I’m not putting that kid in a fair environment — he played last night and travelled all day for his first NHL game. I met him at 5 o’clock, or a little bit past, and just talked to him for five minutes and told him to have fun with it and he went out there and I thought he played real well.
"He got into the game early on, and he was strong along the wall and he made a couple nice plays."
Pinizzotto revealed the coaches didn’t give him too many instructions prior to the game.
"They don’t really tell you much," he said. "You’ve just got to know what to expect, like you know how you play and there’s a reason why you’re here and that’s one of my traits, just finish checks and it worked out."
His next goal is to show that he has what it takes to stay in the team.
"I’ve got to keep improving, keep getting better and stronger," he said. "I just want to fit in and prove to myself that I belong."