The night of his first NHL game, Edmonton goaltender Tyler Bunz became the butt of all hockey jokes, no pun intended.
It was a bad night for Oilers’ goalies all around. Former Los Angeles King and short-lived fan favorite Ben Scrivens gave up five goals. But even as bad as his night was, it probably wasn’t as bad as that of his replacement, the 23-year-old Bunz.
The Edmonton Oilers rookie goalie made his NHL debut and promptly gave up two goals in the first 3:15 of the third period of Thursday night’s game between the Kings and Oilers. It was nearly three after a puck slid between his skates and was cleared out of the crease by defenseman Martin Marincin.
Don’t worry, the third came later as the Kings finished off the 8-2 win over the Oilers.
"That second goal is one I would like to have back, but other than that it was a good experience," Bunz said. "You never want to lose like that and you never want to have a debut like that."
All Twitter jokes about his last name aside, all in attendance felt for him.
"To throw him in a game where his team is maybe not playing their best game and losing by quite a bit, it’s tough for a young goalie to come in and be put in that situation," said Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty. "Yeah, you feel bad a little bit."
But what did you expect against bottom-dwelling Edmonton? The defense couldn’t even touch the puck, and the sad plight of the Oilers’ goaltending only served to benefit the playoff-hungry Kings. The victory momentarily puts the Kings back in the final Wild Card playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"This was an important game, coming back after a long road trip, playing at home," said winger Marian Gaborik. "This team has been through a lot and throughout it all, in a situation like this, we know what it takes. Everybody knows how to prepare themselves and how to elevate their game. Everyone knows the importance of these games, and that’s just the way it is in this room."
Gaborik scored twice to bring his season total to 25 goals, marking the eighth 25-goal season of his career. It’s no secret that his game has been reinvigorated in L.A., but his first 25-goal season first since 2011-12 only further bolsters that claim.
But Gaborik hasn’t suffered from any shortage of goals. There’s a few whose offensive wells have seemingly run dry over the last few months, like Dustin Brown (first goal since Feb. 18) and Doughty (first goal since Feb. 7).
"We need them to do it every game," said coach Darryl Sutter. "Brownie is our captain, Drew is one of the top players in the league. When you go double-digits or 20-something games without a goal, I’m sure it wears on those guys because they’re used to being successful.
This game could serve as a catalyst to L.A.’s offensive production in the final games of the regular season, and maybe even beyond. If the Kings score enough goals to steal that final playoff spot, maybe they can thank Bunz.
He might need all the kind words he can get right now.
"He hasn’t played much in the American League either. That’s not an easy situation to go in to," Sutter said. "He’s a pro and he will learn from. He’ll move forward because he’s a good Western Canadian."