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Dylan Ferguson Took The Long Way

Ottawa Senators goalie Dylan Ferguson celebrates after a win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

In the nearly 2,000 days between his first and second NHL starts, Dylan Ferguson probably played it all out in his head a million times—imagining his Citizen Kane moment. Now that he's 24 years old, he probably gets the reference given his advanced age.

Ferguson cheated the metrics last night in Pittsburgh, starting in goal for the Ottawa Senators and turning away 48 shots in a 2-1 victory over the Penguins. He did this, in his words, "by treating every puck the same," as though he was the father of 15 children and swearing up and down that he loved them all equally—which as we all know is an impossibility. Some wear on your nerves a bit more than others. This is why most folks stop after two.

But never mind your dismal family planning strategies. Let's talk Ferguson. Last night was his second career NHL start, and as the sixth goaltender employed by the Sens this year, he is just another face in a crowded changing room that has included Cam Talbot, Anton Forsberg, Mads Sogaard, Magnus Hellberg, and Kevin Mandolese, of which only Sogaard and Mandolese were listed as playable; Hellberg was sent to Detroit earlier this season, and Talbot and Forsberg have been hurt.

What makes Ferguson interesting, to the extent that the Senators can produce a healthy goalie let alone an interesting one, is that he hadn't played an NHL game in five years, and had been on three different minor league teams this season alone, each affiliated with a different franchise. (That’s Ottawa, Toronto, and San Jose if you’re scoring at home.) He is a journeyman with the accent strongly on “journey."

He was a promising 19-year-old goalie in the then-expansion Vegas Golden Knights system back in 2018, called up in an early-season emergency and inserted in a lost cause game when starter Maxime Legace gave up a touchdown to Edmonton in 50 minutes. Ferguson gave up a goal on two shots in nine minutes and didn't play top flight hockey that season or any of the subsequent four seasons—which meant he got none of the benefits of Vegas' ride to the Stanley Cup Final—and was subsequently lost to the endless churn that is life in the minors. He wasn't even on the Sens' organizational chart at the beginning of the season, and was listed with an injury as recently as last week.

But emergencies crop up even for teams in the bottom half of the standings, and the Sens had played the night before against Toronto, which made Ferguson their last desperate play in a season that, like most everything else with the Senators, is an act of flailing against the tide. They were eight points out of a playoff spot with 12 games left going into the night, and even a struggling Penguins side is still better than the Sens.

But not last night. Ferguson stopped Pittsburgh's first 44 shots and became the fourth goalie in NHL history to face 49 shots or more in his first career victory. He treated every puck the same, and other than the disobedient little bastard from Rickard Rikell with five minutes left, they all behaved. Ferguson had waded through five years of career inertia for his first postgame interview, and now is prepped for his third game ever, against the soul-crushing Boston Bruins tonight in TD Garden.

That is, unless coach D.J. Smith denies the romance in his soul and starts Sogaard instead because you don't play the same guy on both ends of a back-to-back at the end of a long season. The Senators are already pushing a loaded armoire up a muddy hill, postseason-wise, so it might be time to imagine that Ferguson has some magic in him, even though there was nothing to suggest that even 16 hours ago. Or 1,950 days before that.

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