Shane Pinto's NHL debut was a reminder that the UND sophomore was not just the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's leading goal scorer and the league's first-ever unanimous choice for player of the year.
He was the defensive forward of the year, too.
Pinto, five days after joining Ottawa Senators practice for the first time, took defensive zone faceoffs, played on the penalty kill, led the team in takeaways and assisted on an empty-net goal, which sealed the franchise's first shutout in more than two years.
Ottawa beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 in the Bell Centre in Pinto's first NHL game.
"The coaching staff at North Dakota always made sure I had good details in my game," Pinto said after the game. "I tried to bring that to the next level. It's a lot about positioning and I take pride in that. Hopefully, I can continue to do that. It was a good first game with takeaways. I've just got to get better."
Pinto played 9 minutes, 24 seconds. More than a minute of that time came on the penalty kill. He registered an assist, a plus-1 rating, one hit and he accounted for three of Ottawa's six takeaways.
Senators coach D.J. Smith said he wanted to get Pinto more ice time, but it was difficult to dictate line matchups without last line change.
"You can see his hockey sense," Smith said. "It's tough on the road, I can't get exactly what matchup (I want). You can see, he's got really good hockey sense. He won important faceoffs. He gets himself an assist. He knows where to be on the ice and he'll only continue to get better."
Pinto, who won an NCHC-best 388 faceoffs at an NCHC-best 61.9 percent clip this season, won four of his six faceoffs against Montreal.
"Pinto is going to be able to win us faceoffs," Smith said. "You can see how heavy his stick is."
The game marked Ottawa's first shutout since March 26, 2019. Pinto was playing for the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League at that time.
Pinto played the last two seasons with the Fighting Hawks, helping them to back-to-back Penrose Cups as NCHC regular-season champions. UND also won the NCHC Frozen Faceoff playoff title this season before getting knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the regional championship game.
Pinto, of Franklin Square, N.Y., signed a three-year deal with Ottawa on April 1. After traveling to Ottawa, he had to quarantine for a week before he could get on the ice.
"I thought the coaches did a good job of preparing me as much as they can," Pinto said. "At the end of the day, you've just got to play hockey and go off your instincts and that's what I did.
"The first shifts are a little nervous, but I think the guys did such a great job calming me down. They reminded me it's just hockey. I just tried to have that mindset going in and I thought it worked out."
Pinto became the 107th former UND player to play in the NHL and the fourth to make his debut this season, joining Cole Smith (Nashville Predators), Matt Kiersted (Florida Panthers) and Jacob Bernard-Docker (Ottawa).
Bernard-Docker made his debut Wednesday night but was scratched on Saturday.
Ottawa next plays at Calgary on Monday night, then at Vancouver on Thursday and Saturday.
"I know it's not going to get any easier," Pinto said. "Each team is going to be tougher and tougher each game, so I'm not going to look too much into this game. It's your first game. It's always exciting. But I know it's going to be a grind down the stretch. So, I've got to be ready for it."
Pinto is happy to have his first NHL game under his belt.
"I thought we had a good game," Pinto said. "It's good that we got the win. The first one's out of the way. It's good to settle in and hopefully just keep on getting better."