Mattias Ekholm wound up in the Lightning bench thanks to Cedric Paquette. (via NHL/YouTube)
Tampa Bay winger Cedric Paquette introduced Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm to his teammates during Thursday's game by sending the Predators blueliner head first into the Lightning bench with a beautiful hit. It was Paquette's first game back in the lineup after a six-game absence due to injury. Ekholm is likely wishing Paquette had missed just one more outing.
Heading into Thursday's game against Nashville, Tampa Bay winger Cedric Paquette had missed the last six games with an upper body injury. It appears all is well with Paquette, though. After all, he used his upper body to launch Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm into the Lightning bench with a great hit.
The timing on the hit couldn't have been better, either. With the Lightning down 3-1, Brian Boyle scored with 6:41 remaining in the second period to bring Tampa Bay within one. Then, off the ensuing faceoff, a total of four seconds later, Paquette came charging hard to send Ekholm for a ride:
What's best about Paquette's hit is that he didn't need to use any extra force to dump Ekholm into the Tampa Bay bench. Usually when a player gets sent for an unintentional line change like this, the player throwing the hit needs to use a bit of force to make sure they get all the way up and over the boards. Not the case for Paquette, as the contact itself was enough to put Ekholm directly into enemy territory.
Paquette, who stands 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, isn't the biggest body, but his job for the Lightning is to chip in a bit of offense -- he has 12 goals and 19 points in 57 games -- and irritate the opposition. Even if he didn't get on the score sheet last night in Tampa Bay's 3-2 loss, any time you take an opposition player off the ice with a beautiful check like this, you can consider it a job well done.