They say you never forget your first. 

Nashville Predators forward Eeli Tolvanen echoed that sentiment after Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, where the 19-year-old winger scored his first career NHL goal. 

“That’s a goal I’m going to remember my whole life,” Tolvanen said.

It happened just 3:32 into the first period when Tolvanen took a Craig Smith pass and backhanded it glove side past Cam Ward to give the Predators a 2-0 lead. It was all part of a crazy three-goal scoring barrage in the first 4:11 of the game.

Tolvanen later assisted on a Smith goal, giving him his first multi-point game as a member of the Predators. The 5-foot-10 Finn ended his night with the two points, two shots on goal and logged 15:48 of ice time and 2:45 on the power play. ships n trips

“I thought (Tolvanen) moved through the game really well,” Preds coach Peter Laviolette said. “When he gets those opportunities in front of the net like he did tonight, it shows the talent he has to put the puck in the net. I thought the way he moved up and down the ice was great. He looked more mature and more experienced in this rink with less time and less space.

“He really worked harder in the areas that he needed to improve on. To me, he looked better and different than he did in training camp. When it comes down to it, he made really good decisions with the puck and he was good defensively. So, all in all it was a good night for him.” capitol-ins-2

Tolvanen was recalled from Milwaukee prior to the game on Saturday when Filip Forsberg was placed on injured reserve with an upper-boy injury. Forsberg is expected to be out 4-6 weeks, so this could be an extended stay for Tolvanen, especially with more performances like Saturday.

“It’s part of the game,” Preds coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s a big deal right now, and when it was just Arvidsson out, we thought we could just move some pieces around. I still think that there was a real belief that we were going to be successful tonight. There were numerous opportunities tonight for guys like Tolvanen and Richard to move up the line up and get on the power play.” 

After playing in three regular season games for Nashville at the end of last season, Tolvanen was sent down to Milwaukee to start the 2018 season. While there, he was fifth on the Admirals in scoring with 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists).

Although he was only in Milwaukee just a little over two months, Tolvanen stated those 21 games there helped him adjust to the Nashville system and build some confidence along the way.

“I felt like I was more comfortable with the game system and all the guys there and the coaching staff,” Tolvanen said. “I’ve been playing in the AHL for two months and I think it’s helped me a lot with my defensive game and just overall being more comfortable out there.”

“He has some confidence,” Ryan Johansen said of Tolvanen. “He came up with confidence. For him, he just has to play with no fear when you’re young. You just have to go out there and work and mistakes are going to happen. You have to make hard mistakes, but just going out there when stakes are high and playing your game are what makes you good. For him, he just has to do that as much as he can starting off his young career.”