Hat trick, shootout winner caps memorable NHL debut for Habs’ Poehling

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Had the New York Rangers helped the Montreal Canadiens by winning on Friday night, Ryan Poehling would have never had the dream debut that he did Saturday night at Bell Centre.

While Bob Cole’s final Hockey Night in Canada broadcast was the main storyline heading into the Habs’ matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 20-year-old Poehling left his mark during Montreal’s 6-5 victory.

Poehling, who left St. Cloud State early to ink his entry-level deal with the Canadiens on Sunday, scored his first NHL goal midway through the first period, added another early in second period, and completed his first career hat trick in his first career game by tying the game with 2:31 to go in the third period. 

Per Sportsnet, that goal made Poehling the first Canadiens players to score three goals in his debut since Alex Smart did it on Jan. 14, 1943. He also joins Smart, Real Cloutier (1979), Fabian Brunnstrom (2008), Derek Stepan (2010), and Auston Matthews (2016) to score at least three times in their NHL debut.

As the game that featured four lead changes headed to a shootout, Poehling ended his night by scoring the game-winning shootout goal to give the Habs the victory.

“It feels like a dream. I don’t even know what to say,” Poehling said afterward. “I’m just in shock right now.”

The Rangers winning on Friday dashed the Canadiens’ playoff hopes, opening the door for head coach Claude Julien to allow Poehling to make his NHL debut.

And what a debut it was.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy