Mathew Barzal thought to himself, "I can’t do anything in this league."
In both his and the New York Islanders’ second game of the 2017-18 season, Barzal exited the penalty box with just over a minute remaining in the game, received a pass from Casey Cizikas as he crossed the opposing blue line, and skated alone toward the empty net, since Buffalo Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson was on the bench in favor of an extra skater.
This was Barzal’s fourth career National Hockey League game, and he had a golden chance to notch his first NHL goal and point, and add to New York’s 5-3 lead.
Until former Islander Kyle Okposo stripped him of the puck.
"After having a breakaway and not scoring with the net empty, I was like, ‘I don’t even know how this season is going to go,’ "Barzal, 20, remembered. "I felt like a non-factor. That moment was tough. Thankfully, we won."
It would soon get better for the 6-0, 189-pound center. Astronomically better.