OTTAWA -- Truth is, Jean-Gabriel Pageau wasn’t a lock to make the Binghamton Senators this season, let alone imagine he’d be scoring a hat trick in the NHL playoffs.
"We talked about sending him back to junior as an overager at the start of the year," Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com Sunday night after a wild 6-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. "We decided if he couldn’t play in Binghamton, we’d put him in the ECHL, we thought that would be better for his development. But he made the team and by the end of the year he was one of their top centers."
Called up late in the regular season to help a sputtering Ottawa offense, not much was known of a 20-year-old player who scored just seven goals in 69 AHL games. But he has been a spark plug since his call-up, scoring the winner on the final night of the regular season in Boston and then exploding for three Sunday night.
"Tonight was exceptional, obviously we don’t expect that, he’s a guy we never expected to play in the NHL this year," Murray said. "But out of need, we gave him a chance."
Pageau was taken 96th overall in the fourth round of the 2011 draft by the Senators, whose scouting staff kept an eye on him across the river from here that season while he played for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Gatineau Olympiques.
"We went over several times to see him play against guys like [Jonathan] Huberdeau and [Sean] Couturier," Murray said. "We drafted him in the fourth round, he’s not a big guy, so that’s why we didn’t go higher. But we felt he had great hockey intelligence."
With his parents and other relatives and friends in the crowd, Pageau had a dream night, his first goal a thing of beauty as the darted between P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov to whistle a wicked wrist shot past Carey Price that gave the Sens a lead they would never relinquish.
The goal, though, cost him a tooth after a slash from Subban. So while his teammates mobbed him for the goal celebration, he was looking for the lost tooth.
"It was really special," Pageau said of the night. "I just want to enjoy it. I only lost one tooth. I wish I could lose another one if we could win the next game."
Pretty amazing night for a kid on nobody’s radar just a month ago.
"He’s going to have a tough time getting across the bridge tonight [to Gatineau]," said Senators head coach Paul MacLean, joking. "For him to play in his first playoff game at home tonight and to get a hat trick and play the way that he did, that’s a big night for him. We’re really pleased for him, he’s played very well for us."