Patric Hornqvist scores Penguins’ fastest hat trick on hat night

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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.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bruins’ Don Sweeney wins GM of the Year Award

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Don Sweeney took over as the Boston Bruins’ general manager in 2015 and has guided them to three straight playoff berths and a 49-24-9 record in 2018-19. On Wednesday night during the 2019 NHL Awards, his efforts were acknowledged with the GM of the Year Award.

A panel of NHL exclusives, print and broadcast media, as well as the 31 GMs annually give the award “to the general manager who best excelled at his role during the regular season.” Though the award focuses on the season, the voting does take place after the second round.

Sweeney made two significant moves before the trade deadline, acquiring Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle. Though the two had a limited impact during the regular season, they provided valuable secondary scoring during the Bruins’ run to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

One of his big moves though came before the campaign when he signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a two-year, $5.5 million contract. That move played off beautifully for the Bruins as Halak was an ideal backup in 2018-19. He took the pressure off Tuukka Rask during his early season struggles and allowed Boston to use their starting sparingly enough that he was fresh for the postseason.

Here is the full results for the 2019 vote:

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Panthers’ Barkov kindly takes 2019 Lady Byng

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Fantastic Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov won the 2019 Lady Byng Trophy on Wednesday. Barkov edged two fantastic finalists in Calgary Flames’ Sean Monahan and St. Louis Blues’ Ryan O'Reilly.

The Lady Byng is awarded to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

Take a look at the top 15 voting, which also included Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov.

Sometimes people knock the award, but it’s really a nice opportunity to give a great player who may not otherwise lock down an award some recognition. Fittingly, ast year, William Karlsson (Vegas Golden Knights) won the 2018 Lady Byng Trophy.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks’ Elias Pettersson captures Calder Trophy

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For just the second time in NHL history, a member of the Vancouver Canucks has won the Calder Trophy. Elias Pettersson followed in the footsteps of Pavel Bure when he was handed the award during Wednesday’s NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. The award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and given “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.”

Pettersson dominated the rookie scoring race with 28 goals and 66 points in 71 games. The next best rookie was Brady Tkachuk with 45 points. Due to that, Pettersson was the only forward to be included among the finalists. The other two nominees were Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.

Forwards tend to walk away with this award. Seven of the last eight winners have been forwards with the lone exception being Aaron Ekblad in 2015. The last goaltender to win the Calder was Steve Mason in 2009.

Pettersson couldn’t have asked for a better start to the campaign. He had five goals and eight points in his first five contests and 10 goals through 10 contests. Obviously he didn’t maintain that pace, but he didn’t fade away entirely as the campaign continued either. Some of his highlights included a five-point game on Dec. 9 and a hat trick on Jan. 2.

Here are the full results of the vote:

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

NHL GMs still waiting for final 2019-20 salary cap numbers

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The wheeling and dealing has already begun ahead of the start of the 2019 NHL Draft this weekend. Between trades, buyouts, and extensions, general managers are getting to work on preparing for next season.

There is one problem, however, as Friday approaches and the draft begins. Due to the Stanley Cup Final going seven games, the calculations that determine the salary cap ceiling and floor have yet to be finalized. GMs were given a projection of an $83M ceiling back during their meetings in December, but official numbers may not be finalized until Saturday — and the upper limit may come in lower than expected.

The cap ceiling for the 2018-19 season was $79.5M, an increase from $75M from 2017-18.

Now, if you’re a general manager who likes to spend to the cap ceiling to maximize your efforts to win the Stanley Cup, well you’re in quite the holding pattern at the moment. The delay could also have a major impact on trade talks this weekend, possibly making for a quiet Friday night on the draft floor as general manager wait and see where the range ends up.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.