There was no pressure on New York Islanders rookie goaltender Christopher Gibson Tuesday night when he faced the Washington Capitals.
He was only making his first National Hockey League start against superstar sniper Alex Ovechkin and the team with the league’s best regular season record with a Stanley Cup playoff berth on the line.
Gibson showed his mettle, making 29 saves in a 4-3 comeback overtime Islanders victory against Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals in D.C. that secured team’s third playoff spot in four years.
“Right now, it’s the best night of my life so far,” Gibson told NHL Tonight via the highlight show’s arena camera. “I never thought my first game would be against the Washington Capitals. Especially going to OT and winning in overtime, it’s been unbelievable.”
Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano told reporters that Gibson “gave us a chance to win, and he was our best player tonight.”
Tuesday night’s best player wasn’t on the Islanders roster last Sunday. The team called him up from its American Hockey League farm team, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, because of injuries to goalies Jean-Francois Berube and Jaroslav Halak.
Gibson, 23, was born in Karkkila, Finland. His mother is Finnish and his father hails from St. Lucia. After playing four seasons playing for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Gibson was chosen by the Los Angeles Kings with the 49th pick of the NHL Draft in 2011.
But Gibson didn’t sign with the Kings, and ended up signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He bounced between the Leafs’ farm teams – the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL and Toronto Marlies of the AHL – in the 2013-14 season.
The Leafs traded him to the Islanders on the first day of training camp in September for Michael Grabner and was assigned to Bridgeport where he has a 19-11-3 record and a 2.70 goals-against average.
Tuesday was his first NHL start, but he played in his first NHL game on Jan. 2, 2016, relieving starting Isles goalie Thomas Greiss in a tilt against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He gave up one goal in a 5-2 Penguins victory.
Brent Thompson, Gibson’s head coach in Bridgeport, told the Islanders website reporter Cory Wright that the goaltender is “one of the hardest-working kids both on and off the ice.”
“If there’s an opportunity to get on the ice early, he’s on the ice early, doing extra, we always do extra shooting,” Thompson told Wright. “His conditioning, he takes pride in that. I think you couldn’t ask for a better kid all around. He’s got great character, a great work ethic and it’s really nice to see him get that kind of reward with his first NHL win.”