DETROIT – The most difficult season of Riley Sheahan’s six-year professional career ended with a memory the Detroit Red Wings forward will cherish forever.
Sheahan’s inability to score entering the Red Wings season finale Sunday made him the butt of Internet jokes for the past couple of months.
One person went so far as to create a Twitter account called “Did Sheahan Score.”
But Sheahan avoided the indignity of spending the summer as the guy who couldn’t buy a goal all season by scoring twice in the Red Wings’ 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Joe Louis Arena.
Now, he’ll forever be remembered for scoring the final goal in the history of The Joe, which hosted its final hockey game with the Red Wings moving into Little Caesars Arena next fall.
“It’s pretty cool,” Sheahan said of his second goal, which ended the scoring with 2:33 left. “There’s a lot of things I’ll remember in my career and it’s definitely one of them. I guess in the bigger picture, it’s unfortunate that they came so late.
“It is pretty cool and it’s something I’ll definitely take with me through the rest of my career.”
Sheahan set a team record for the most games without a goal to start the season – it was at 79 after Saturday’s overtime loss to Montreal – before ending the drought in the first period vs. New Jersey.
He fired a wrist shot from the slot past Cory Schneider at 7:09 to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead.
“When he got his first one, I almost jumped out of my skates I was so happy for him,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who was watching from the other end of the ice.
“He had a smile from ear to ear. I could see it all the way to my net from the bench. It was really exciting.”
Sheahan made it 4-1 – and became the answer to a trivia question – when he finished the scoring at JLA with a power-play goal after Dylan Larkin stole the puck in the neutral zone.
Larkin skated up the ice and around the Devils net, fed Frans Nielsen at the bottom of the right faceoff circle and Nielsen slid the puck across the slot to Sheahan for a tap-in.
That gave Sheahan the second two-goal game of his career.
“It was a huge relief,” said Sheahan, who hadn’t scored since the final game of last season, exactly one year to the day earlier. “Unfortunately, it came a little late but I think the guys rallied pretty hard tonight and we ended off this final season at The Joe with some good effort.
“It’s kind of a blur. Niels made a great play on the first one. I just found a little patience and got a good shot off. The second one was just kind of a good bounce there through the crease and I had a wide open net.”
Sheahan’s first goal came on his 107th shot of the season.
He’s had plenty of good chances all season but for whatever reason – inaccurate shooting and bad luck being at the top of the list – the slump dragged on and on.
“It’s been a rough year for him scoring wise,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who also scored. “He’s had chances all year. Somehow it hits a stick or a shin pad or a post so when he scored that first one everyone was really, really happy.
“And then to have him score the last goal at The Joe, I think that was a perfect player to have that.”
Coach Jeff Blashill never lost faith in Sheahan despite the drought.
Blashill likes what Sheahan brings to the ice, continued to use him on the power play and gave him an average 14 minutes of ice time per game this season – something that both angered and baffled some fans.
So Blashill was understandably happy to see Sheahan finally score.
“I thought it was great,” Blashill said. “I can tell you there were 19 players – very, very happy teammates – and a happy coaching staff. I think he’s had lots of chances and it just hasn’t gone in for whatever reason.
“So for it to go in I thought was a great thing so he can end the year without having to deal with that.”
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