First NHL goals for Zetterlund, Bahl draw excitement from Utica
UTICA — One NHL milestone involving a player called up from the Utica Comets is notable.
A second player reaching that achievement in the same game with the parent New Jersey Devils?
Well, that just brings more excitement.
That’s especially true when it is two players – Fabian Zetterlund and Kevin Bahl – who have generated a buzz among fans while playing in their first season with Utica.
Zetterlund and Bahl each got their first career goals – both also added an assist – in the Devils’ 6-2 win over host Arizona late Tuesday night. The Devils are in the middle of a West Coast road trip.
“It was great to see. It was well-deserved. Both have had big contributions on our season this year,” Comets coach Kevin Dineen said Wednesday morning. “Their teammates and all of us in Utica were happy and excited to see them score.”
Zetterlund, who got an opportunity on one of the Devils’ top forward lines, scored on a nice finish following a skilled play by Nico Hischier in the first period. The goal drew celebration from his teammates – including best friend Alexander Holtz – on Instagram.
“Amazing feeling when I saw it went in. And my whole family (in Sweden) watched it, too,” Zetterlund told media in Arizona. “So I’m really happy.”
Bahl added his goal in the second period on a slap shot from the point through traffic. That goal also garnered excitement on social media, notably from the fan group, Bahl’s Army, which has celebrated the defenseman’s play this season.
“It is fun when you have the AHL boys scoring a couple,” Bahl said with a smile while speaking with media. “It was definitely awesome to see Zee get one and I was like ‘well, I have to get one here, too.’”
It was sixth time in Devils history two players scored their first NHL goal in the same game.
In his third pro season, it was Zetterlund’s sixth NHL game. Bahl – drafted by Arizona in 2018 – was playing in his 15th NHL career game and eighth this season. They are among a few players to spend time with Utica and New Jersey this season.
Dineen said he didn’t see the goals live, but saw replays early Wednesday.
Zetterlund has had a breakout season with Utica (39-18-7-1), which has clinched a North Division playoff spot. The team is scheduled to play visiting Syracuse at 7 p.m. Friday.
Despite missing the last three games, the 22-year-old Zetterlund leads Utica with 52 points. His 24 goals are tied for most with Holtz while his 28 assists are tied for fourth.
“He’s an opportunistic kid with the offense that he’s produced with us. It is mixture of skill and a want to get to the right place,” Dineen said. “It is the tangibles that he brings to game and his teammates. It is good to see it pay off in the NHL.”
The 6-foot-6 defenseman has used his size and his physicality more as the season as progressed. He has three goals and 16 points with Utica.
“Kevin has the thing you can’t teach with his size,” Dineen said. “A lot areas he can be hard to play against with his God-given size. It gives a little extra reach and makes you hard to play against. We’ve talked a lot shooting the puck. .. We don’t take credit for anything that happened (Tuesday), but it is good to see … he leaned into it and pounded the thing. He’s a smart kid and still has a lot of growth left. He’s made some good strides.”
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