If you wanted to know just how special Samuel Morin’s first career NHL goal scored in the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday was, just look at the reaction of his teammates.
The 25-year-old defenseman’s one-timer from the left point proved to be the game-winner with 4:27 remaining in the third period against a Rangers team that had recently trounced the Flyers 9-0 and 8-3. He was quickly mobbed by his teammates on the boards — just as excited that the defenseman finally got his name on the scoresheet as they were moving past the Rangers for fifth-place in the Eastern Division.
“Probably was the best moment of my life, honestly,” Morin said. “I worked so hard just to play hockey again and I’m playing defense in the NHL and scored my first goal, it’s crazy.
“I just saw [Michael Raffl] put his hand in the air and screaming, and [Shayne Gostisbehere] flying on me. I’m really happy, it’s the best moment in my life.
“I don’t score a lot of goals. It was a big one, a big W for us.”
It felt like his teammates had been waiting just as eagerly as Morin himself for his first NHL goal — which came after every twist and turn imaginable.
Drafted 13th overall in 2013, Morin’s path to the pros had been nearly derailed by injuries as he suffered two torn ACLs in a 19-month span, which left his career in serious doubt as he rehabbed and worked back to full strength in the AHL — the NHL’s minor leagues.
“I love the game,” Morin said. “I didn’t really care where I was — AHL, East Coast, anywhere in Europe — I was just ready for anything. I thought about it, but I got a lot of support here with the Flyers… good teammates and good family. I worked hard and now I’m there and trying to stay in the lineup.”
While contending with multiple recoveries from those injuries, Morin was also alerted before the start of the 2020-21 season that he would be transitioning from defenseman to left-winger as the Flyers searched for more size and tenacity in its forward ranks.
“It was pretty hard,” Morin said. “It’s hard when you’re a defensive defenseman and trying to go to forward. I was a bit lost out there, I think anyone can tell. I tried my best.”
But with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, thin on defense, Morin got the call back to his natural position. He was called up to the big club as their defensive ranks faltered, headlined by their combined 17 goals allowed against the Rangers with an additional six spot being put up by the New York Islanders.
“I went down there and played defense, played defense good,” Morin continued. ” I got the call-up. [Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher] told me that I’m a D-man now, I’m going to play defense for the rest of the year. That’s kind of what I wanted and I’m extremely happy about that. I’m a D-man, for sure, I’m a D-man.”
Morin had appeared in five previous games this season before Saturday night’s triumph against the Rangers, all the while continuing to impress his head coach, Alain Vigneault.
“Anyone that has gotten to know Sam over the years knows that he’s a good, big, young Frenchman from the farm,” Vigneault said. “Just a wholesome young man. Everyone who’s gotten to know him likes him. There’s no doubt there was a lot of joy.
“There’s no doubt that not just myself, but our whole team from top to bottom is extremely happy with him getting to contribute tonight and get the win. He’s been through so much. We know his situation in the past years with his injuries. He had a chance to play [in the AHL] and was playing on D and playing well and ever since we called him up, he’s been playing real well and trying real hard and he got a big goal for us.”
Brian Elliott, who backstopped the Flyers’ victory over the Rangers with 24 saves on 25 shots, echoed those sentiments.
“It’s pretty special,” the veteran netminder said. “This guy’s been through a lot within the organization. A lot of injuries and surgeries and he’s always come back with a smile on his face. Every day, ready to work, can’t wait to get back on the ice with the guys. I think that’s why everybody’s so happy.”
Now with his first NHL goal in the book, Morin also showed off his fluency in hockey cliches as he looks ahead.
“It was just a big moment for me and I’m going to enjoy it and reset for tomorrow,” he said. “We’ve got a big game against Buffalo [on Monday], we can’t be too high. Enjoy the moment and go after it.”