Troy Stecher saw the puck go in the net and instantly pointed with his right hand, the index finger, up in the air.
The Vancouver Canucks defenseman followed with a fist pump, screaming “Let’s gooooo.” He ended the celebration with a subtle, more personal point up to the roof on his way to the bench.
It was Stecher’s way of celebrating his go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal by honoring his late father, Peter, who died on June 21, Fathers’ Day. He was 65.
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“It’s been tough obviously at certain moments throughout this process but I’m thankful to be surrounded by my teammates,” Stecher said following the Canucks’ 5-2 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round on Wednesday. “Obviously, I had a couple seconds there to reflect on my dad and the biggest thing is everybody showed support on the bench instantly and kind of gave me a tap and it just kind of motivated me to keep it going.”
Stecher’s goal at 5:37 of the third period gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead at Rogers Place.
It’s likely the most poignant and emotional goal scored by the 26-year-old from Richmond, British Columbia, who went to Canucks games with his dad while growing up.
“Any time someone goes through something like that, you feel for them, it’s sad,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “He’s probably had some hard days and to see that happen to him was special for sure, and I know his teammates were happy for him.”
After Stetcher scored, the Canucks responded by scoring two more goals, from center Bo Horvat at 8:01 and from forward J.T. Miller at 19:21, to seal their Game 1 win in the best-of-7 series.
Game 2 is in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, on Friday (6:30 p.m. ET; NHL Network, SN, FS-MW).
“Winning definitely helps,” Stecher said.
Playing the game helps. Scoring arguably the biggest goal of his career helps. Teammates certainly help.
It’s all part of the life in the Stanley Cup Playoff bubble that Stecher needed in the months following his father’s death.
Forward Elias Pettersson embraced Stecher during a break in action shortly after he scored the goal.
“What Troy had to go through during the summer was just devasting, so I just wanted to go and hug him,” said Pettersson, a center.
Jacob Markstrom hugged him after the game.
“Very emotional for him,” said the Canucks goalie, whose father died from cancer in November. “I know what he’s going through and it’s not easy. For him to show that kind of emotion, just so happy he got it. I got emotional as well thinking about it so I gave him a big hug after the game. I’m super happy for him.
“To get rewarded with a goal in a big game with everything he’s been going through, that’s huge.”
Stecher can become a restricted free agent after this season and his future is unclear.
But all that matters to Stecher now is what he can do to help the Canucks against the Blues. He started by creating a memory that months ago he would have been able to share with his dad.
Instead, it’s one he used to honor him.
But Stecher didn’t want to dwell on it for too long.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way to keep going here,” Stecher said. “We have to put our foot forward and get ready for the next game now.”
NHL.com staff writer David Satriano contributed to this story.