Fischer scores game-winning goal for Coyotes in NHL debut

Jan 21, 2017, 10:27 PM
Arizona Coyotes right wing Christian Fischer, right, celebrates a goal in his first NHL hockey game...

Arizona Coyotes right wing Christian Fischer, right, celebrates a goal in his first NHL hockey game, against Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) during the second period Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — When the season began, the Arizona Coyotes had a trio of options for power-forward prospect Christian Fischer.

They could send him back to Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League where he could compete with a team that is currently two points off the OHL lead.

They could keep him on the NHL club and let him develop with a number of other rookie prospects, or they could send him to Tucson of the American Hockey League and let him learn the pro game in a less pressure-packed environment.

The Coyotes chose the latter option because coach Dave Tippett had a hunch about the physically and mentally mature 19-year-old.

“I thought at some point this year he was going to play games on our team,” Tippett said.

He was right. After scoring 16 goals to lead Tucson, Fischer made his NHL debut on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning and he made the most of it in front of his parents, brother, sister and other family and friends.

Fischer scored his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot, Radim Vrbata tied a career-high with four points (one goal, three assists) and Mike Smith made 45 saves as the Coyotes snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-3 win at Gila River Arena, tying a season-high in goals.

Fischer’s goal came off a pretty passing play from Alex Burmistrov and Jamie McGinn to Fischer waiting at the right post late in the second period.

“It’s nice to get that one under the belt,” Fischer said. “That’s my game is just getting to the net and that’s what I’ve been doing so far in Tucson. Burmistrov came in the zone and made an unbelievable sauce pass and then McGinn made an unbelievable little backhand toe drag pass to me and all I had to do was tap that one in.”

Fischer became the seventh Coyotes player to make his NHL debut this season, joining centers Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, left wings Brendan Perlini, Lawson Crouse and defensemen Jakob Chychrun and Anthony DeAngelo.

He set the tone for how he was going to play shortly before his game-winning goal when he was tripped in the neutral zone, hooked at the blue line and then crashed headlong into the net.

“That just shows he knows where to go,” Tippett quipped. “When you watch him play down there (in Tucson), he goes A to B and it doesn’t really matter if anybody’s in his way. He’s going to get there.”

Fischer was happy with his game from the start of Tucson’s season, but the production wasn’t coming. He had just seven points in 11 games but he didn’t let frustration alter his approach.

“I always stayed with the same mindset,” he said. “I’ve played the same game since Game 1 down there to my last game down there.”

That led to 14 points in a seven-game stretch and his eventual call-up on Friday.

“How he scored that goal — it’s a special goal for him, special for him the way it happens on his first shot in the NHL — but you’re going to see a lot of goals over his career just like that, going hard to the net,” Tippett said. “His skating has really improved. That was the one area he knows he has to work at, but it didn’t seem like it was a detriment at all tonight.”

Fischer hadn’t decided what he was going to do with the puck from his first NHL goal, other than hang it somewhere, but when he learned his father was hoping to display it in his own office, Fischer smiled.

“I’m not giving it to him,” he said.

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