Neal Pionk scored his first career NHL goal in tonight's win over Buffalo.
Pionk spoke after the game and said (NYR Game Notes):
- On his goal tonight…"It started with a great play all around by the forwards. I think Zucc entered the zone, kicked it out to Hayesy. Haysey dropped it to Ves and Ves made one heck of a play. All I had to do was tap it in."
- On realizing he scored his first NHL goal…"It's hard to believe it at first. It's just such a great feeling when those guys come get you and they all give you a huge hug. Something I will never forget."
- On Lindy Ruff's assessment that the more responsibility he gets, the more comfortable he seems…"I've handled that before in past seasons with previous teams. So when I get more responsibility it's about easing into it, not trying to be too complicated, and taking it game-by-game."
On assisting on Pionk's goal, Jimmy Vesey said (NYR Game Notes), "Zuc had the puck. I was yelling four, because it was a 4-on-3. Haysie made a great play to hit me late. I thought let me try to find Neal to get him his first goal. I think it's always exciting to see a guy score his first goal. I know myself and a lot of guys were pumped for him."
Prior to last night's game, Alain Vigneault said, "he has taken some real good strides and I think that says a lot about the staff in Hartford and what they do with those players. I remember him from camp, his hockey smarts will permit him to have a good chance to play at this level and be a good player. He has improved his skillset, understanding and with Marc Staal they have been a good pair and done a good job for us."
On Pionk's game Alain Vigneault said after the Sabres game, "that is what I heard, from our scouts to Gorts, everyone had talked about this young man being an offensive minded D. He can see the ice, understands the game well. I met him last year just prior to him deciding to come here. He has lived up to what we expected and to some extent, him playing all these games is helping him for the next year coming up." (MSG)
From the Rangers Game Notes, "Neal Pionk tallied two points (one goal, one assist), including his first career NHL goal, and recorded three shots on goal while skating in a team-high 23:24 of ice time. Pionk extended his assist/point streak to seven games (one goal, nine assists over the span), and his seven-game assist streak is the longest a Ranger has posted this season. In addition, Pionk has registered 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) in the last 12 games, dating back to Feb. 28. He has recorded 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 21 career NHL games, and he leads NHL rookie defensemen (min. 20 games played) in points per game this season (0.67).