He’s a goal scorer. A guy who wants the puck and is going to bury it. That’s how Tony Granato described Cole Caufield to Sporting News in April, about 90 minutes before his NHL debut.
Fast forward two months and the kid from Wisconsin, who won the 2021 Hobey Baker Award at Wisconsin playing for Granato, netted his fourth playoff goal to give Montreal a 2-1 lead in the second period.
The wee winger (he’s listed at 5-7) blew past Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb (who is 6-4) and went top shelf past Robin Lehner.
It was a spectacular goal considering that, on Sunday, Lehner revealed the pre-scout mentioned that “either he goes high or he goes five-hole.” In that game, a Vegas 2-1 overtime win to even the series 2-2, Lehner stopped Caufield on a breakaway in the third period as he tried to go five-hole. Lehner also stopped him in the third period of Game 6 with under five minutes remaining and the score tied. A streaking Caufield tried to go five-hole again as he was being pressured by Shea Theodore.
That’s what made his goal Thursday that much more of a beauty — Lehner knew but still couldn’t stop it. After all, as Caufield said after slipping to 15th overall to the Canadiens at the 2019 draft: “What I bring to the table is offense and my shot is probably the best part of my game.”
The kid who also won a gold medal at the World Juniors in January for the United States has taken the NHL by storm. After scoring four goals and five points in 10 regular-season games, he started the postseason in the press box. After spending two games in a suit, he was slotted back into the lineup and has been a force since. The 20-year-old winger entered this series with four assists — three of which were primary — and has four goals in the semifinals alone. His Game 6 tally gave him goals in back-to-back games.