PITTSBURGH — Patric Hornqvist had a pretty simple explanation for how he was able to score three goals in just 2:47 during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night, setting a franchise record for fastest hat trick.
Just shoot the puck.
Even if you do not know exactly where it’s going.
“The two last ones, they were lucky ones,” said Hornqvist when talking about his record-setting night, which also happened to come on free hat night at PPG Paints Arena.
“You Just have one of those days sometimes when the puck is just coming right on your stick and you don’t think, you just shoot it. If you don’t know where it’s going I don’t think the goalie does either.”
Just read that last sentence again and marvel at it. “If you don’t know where it’s going I don’t think the goalie does either.” It may not be “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” but it is still pretty good.
It also worked for Hornqvist and the Penguins and helped lift them to a much-needed win just when it once again looked like things were going to start slipping away from them.
Entering the night having lost back-to-back games, with one of them coming against this same Avalanche team less than a week ago, they allowed an early three-goal lead to evaporate in less than five minutes during a sloppy second period where they gave up their league-worst seventh shorthanded goal of the season.
Based on what we have seen from the Penguins this season it would have been easy to conclude the game was going to get away from them at that point to continue what has been one of their worst starts to a season in more than a decade.
That was when Hornqvist took over.
The same power play unit that contributed to the blown lead in the second period, came through and regained the lead at the 6:11 mark of the third period when Hornqvist scored his first goal of the night. It came on a very Hornqvist-like play as he banged in a loose puck from right in front of the net in one of those “garbage” areas he is known for always being in.
His last two — the lucky ones — came on lower percentage, long distance shots that managed to sneak through Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov.
His hat trick broke a team record that was previously owned by, of all people, Nils Ekman.
Only 20 players in NHL history have recorded a faster hat trick.
Hornqvist, who was wearing one of the giveaway hats in his post-game media session, said the win could be a “turning point” in the Penguins’ season. If that turns out to be the case it would be pretty fitting that he was the player at the center of it. Just a couple of weeks ago after one of their early losses he was the one that said it could only take just “one shift” to turn the season around.
Maybe this was it, and maybe it wasn’t, but no matter how tough things have been for the Penguins at different times this season, or how bad they have looked in certain games, Hornqvist has always been one of the players they know is going to be bringing an A-plus effort on every shift of every game. He is a constant thorn in the side of opposing defenders and goalies around the net, and has been one of the team’s most important players since he was acquired before the start of the 2014-15 season.
“I’m just thrilled for him,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan after the game. “He’s just a terrific person and a great teammate, and his positive energy is just so evident when he is around our group. On a night like tonight we’re thrilled for him. He plays the game so hard, he takes so many cross-checks, he goes to the dirty areas, he competes and battles, he just wants to win and he’s such a competitive guy and I thought tonight he had a great night for us. We are thrilled he got the hat trick.”
With Tuesday’s win the Penguins are still two points out of a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division with a few teams ahead of them, but they are 4-2-2 in their past eight games, having collected 10 out of a possible 16 points during that stretch.