I t took Chris Mueller two years, four NHL call-ups and 21 NHL games to finally register his first NHL goal.
It took less than a week for him to bury the second.
On Monday night against Edmonton at Bridgestone Arena, the Nashville Predator center beat goaltender Devan Dubnyk top-shelf for his second career goal – the game winner in Nashville’s 3-2 win over the Oilers.
“It was a good feeling, a great play by Yip,” Mueller said. “We had a good breakout to start and he started going wide and the cut back and their two D both took him – I think it was a little miscommunication by them – and then I broke in. He got me on that first shot with the glove, so I had to beat him on the second one.”
Mueller’s goal was especially impressive when one considers that at 6’5″, there is not exactly a lot of “top shelf” to work with on Dubnyk
“It seems like there’s no room on any goalie in this league,” Mueller said. “I was just shooting the puck, trying to put it upstairs. I didn’t want to make a move, just try to get a shot on goal over his glove and then it went in.”
It took a while for Mueller to finally hit the back of an NHL net. So long, in fact, that apparently no one retrieved the puck after his first goal last week because – according to Mueller – he had been around so long that no one realized it was actually his first one.
He was first called up in late December 2010 when he signed a contract with Nashville to fill an empty roster spot when Martin Erat and Steve Sullivan were injured. Mueller returned to Milwaukee at the end of January where he stayed until two brief call-ups last season.
In his 21st career game last Tuesday at Columbus, Mueller finally scored an NHL goal – a late one in Nashville’s 4-3 loss.
“I had chances, but the first couple of call ups, you’re a little nervous,” Mueller said. “You’re gripping your stick a little too much. As you get a little order and you score more goals down in the American League, you get more confidence. You just have to keep that confidence even though it’s the NHL and these guys are so good. If you don’t have confidence, you’re not going to stick in the League. Knowing that you can score, you just have to pick a corner, shoot it and hope it goes in.”
According to Mueller, actually getting the puck in the net last week gave him the mindset he needed to move forward. Knowing he was able to score at the NHL level made the second one come just a little easier.
“Sometimes you just grip that stick and you shoot it with no confidence and you take an extra half of a second even though you have the puck,” Mueller said. “You just have to put it on the net and put it in a good spot. The monkey is definitely off of my back and hopefully a few more will go in.”
While Mueller is technically currently on the NHL roster due to Paul Gaustad’s injury, Nashville head coach Barry Trotz believes he is making progress towards staying up with the big club.
“I think he had a slow start, but now he’s caught up to the National League game,” Trotz said. “He’s given us really no reason in the past couple of games to have him go down. He’s done what we asked. He’s made a case for himself.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua