Larsson's early birthday gift: his first goal

NEWARK, N.J. -- Adam Larsson was the only New Jersey Devil who left the locker room with a smile on Friday night.

The Devils lost 3-1 to the Washington Capitals at Prudential Center, but the 18-year-old rookie defenseman, who will turn 19 on Saturday, scored his first NHL goal with 6:54 left in the first period.

“It’s good to have the first one,” said Larsson, who was selected fourth overall by the Devils in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft. “Hopefully it’s one of many.”

Given how talented Larsson is, it should be.

In his 14th-ever NHL game, the Skelleftea, Sweden native slapped a big rebound from the top of the right circle inside the left post to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. It wouldn’t last. Though for Larsson, the memory of that moment will stay with him forever.

“I just tried to get it to the net,” Larsson said. “It was a lucky bounce for me.”

Center Patrik Elias scooped up the puck and gave it to Larsson. A milestone souvenir.

“Obviously he’s got a great shot, so he’s gotta use it,” Elias said.

Even at such a young age, Larsson has taken the NHL by storm. His calm demeanor on the ice has drawn rave reviews -- as has his overall game. Already, the top-pairing backliner leads all rookies in ice time, averaging more than 23 minutes a night.

“I think he’s been great,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “I’m sure scoring his first NHL goal is a big relief for him.”

As is the fact that Larsson still has his teeth.

With 12:06 remaining in the third, he sustained a massive open-ice shoulder hit to the mouth from Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin. Larsson, who looked flustered, headed over to the bench and received treatment from the trainer to stop the bleeding.

But it didn’t take long for him to get back on the ice.

“It was a good, clean hit,” Larsson said. “I just have to make sure to keep my head up next time.”

Said DeBoer: “He won’t make that mistake again. One of those first time through the league mistakes you don’t make again.”

Given that he’s still a teenager, Larsson is going to make mistakes. The hope is that he learns from them.

On Friday night, Larsson got an early birthday present. Unfortunately, his team didn’t win.

But the Devils will get back after it on Saturday night when they take on Washington again in the second-half of a back-to-back in D.C.

“Hopefully we can get a win [Saturday],” Larsson said. “It will be the best gift I can get.”