Hornqvist’s Hat-Night Hat Trick Sets Penguins Record

In just two minutes and 47 seconds, Patric Hornqvist wrote his name in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ record books. He scored the fastest hat trick in team history and 21st-quickest trick in League history. Though hat tricks are hard to come by, five Penguins have made it look easy to score three goals in a game, and, even more so, score them all in just a matter of minutes.

Patric Hornqvist – Dec. 4, 2018, vs. Avalanche

By the end of the second period of the game versus the Colorado Avalanche, the Penguins seemed to be at it again: blowing a substantial lead and collapsing, leaving everything up to a goaltender who wasn’t up for the challenge. After taking a 3-0 lead in the first period with tallies from Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin, and Derick Brassard, Pittsburgh let the Avalanche right back in during the second period with goals from Tyson Barrie, Carl Soderberg, and Matt Nieto.

Hornqvist, known for his net-front presence, and antagonism of goalies and defensemen, was determined not to have a repeat of the same old game. He netted his first goal of the night at 6:11 into the third, and by 8:53 he had pushed a third consecutive puck past Semyon Varlamov to complete the natural hat trick.

Patric Hornqvist Penguins
Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins, January 2, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What could be better than that? Doing it on free hat night, of course. Reminiscent of Sidney Crosby’s hat-night hat trick against the New York Rangers in 2009, giveaway hats rained down from the stands to mark the occasion.

As if the fastest trick on hat night wasn’t enough, Hornqvist also helped make a bit of league history as well. Prior to that night, there were only 10 instances in the last 45 years where a team scored two natural hat tricks against one opponent in the same season. Hornqvist’s hat trick joined Crosby’s against the Avalanche just seven days earlier to add their names in at No. 11.

Related: The Sneaky Value of Patric Hornqvist

Nils Ekman – Nov. 8, 2006, vs. Lightning

Nils Ekman was a one-and-done blip on the Penguins radar. The Swedish left winger played just one season for the club, 2006-07, during which he suffered a dislocated elbow and missed two months of action. Despite all that, he carved out his own spot in team history.

The Penguins were down 2-0 against the Tampa Bay Lightning midway through the second period when Ekman took a slot pass from Crosby and put it in the net. Two minutes later, he deflected another past the Lightning’s Johan Holmqvist, and with 13 seconds left in the period, Ekman redirected a Crosby pass to clinch the natural hat trick, the first and only one of his NHL career, in four minutes and 10 seconds.

Ekman’s efforts were for naught, as Tampa’s Eric Perrin tied the game early in the third and pushed play to an extra frame. Vincent Lecavalier buried a backhander behind Marc-Andre Fleury with 2:41 left in overtime to give Tampa the victory and the extra point.

Related: Notable Penguins Injuries Over the Years

Lowell MacDonald – Nov. 13, 1973, vs. North Stars

A matchup between the Penguins and the Minnesota North Stars might not sound like a must-win game, but on Nov. 13, 1973, times were desperate for both second-wave expansion teams. By age, the Penguins were the youngest team in the league and the North Stars were the oldest, making the game a battle of proof. Could the young guns get the job done, or were the veterans still spry enough to compete?

Desperate for a win, Penguins head coach Ken Schinkel shuffled his lines, moving Lowell MacDonald to the right wing of Syl Apps, and adding rookie Wayne Bianchin on the left. In goal was Penguins current general manager, Jim Rutherford.

Lowell MacDonald, Penguins
Lowell MacDonald played for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1970-78.

The Penguins youth prevailed, notching a 5-2 win over the visiting North Stars, with MacDonald’s natural hat trick — which took four minutes and 17 seconds to complete — in the second period making up over half of Pittsburgh’s tallies on the evening. It was a welcome relief for the winger, who had been struggling to score. MacDonald told Dan Donovan of the Pittsburgh Press:

“I’ve been fighting the puck the last few games and I’ve missed my good chances to score. Tonight I just shot three times and I had three goals. Someone was watching over me,” (from ‘Pens’ MacDonald Pulls Neat Trick,’ Pittsburgh Press – 11/14/73).

This hat trick was MacDonald’s third. His first one came in 1967 as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, and his second, also against the North Stars, was completed almost a year to the day on Nov. 15, 1972. Like Crosby and Hornqvist, MacDonald put the Penguins on the list of teams to score two natural hat tricks against one opponent in the same season with another trick against the North Stars four months later.

Related: NHL Expansion Teams in Year Two

Rick Kehoe – Mar. 10, 1976, vs. Sabres

The Penguins and Buffalo Sabres matchup in March 1976 would go down in Penguins history, and not for a good reason. The following day, the headlines of the Pittsburgh Press read: “March 10, 1976: The Great Penguin Disaster, Or: How to Go Splat in Eight Minutes.”

The game was played on the heels of a messy trade with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins sent goaltender Gary Innes and “other considerations” to the Flyers for defenseman and former Philadelphia captain Ed Van Impe and minor-league goaltender Bobby Taylor. Van Impe, however, refused to report to the Penguins over money issues and even told a Philadelphia radio station that he would rather skip the rest of the 1975-76 season and report to Penguins training camp in the fall.

It’s possible the flopped trade was a sign of things to come. The game against the Sabres was such a disgusting upset that Rick Kehoe’s now-fourth-fastest hat trick in team history, which took four minutes and 55 seconds to score, was barely a footnote.

Rick Kehoe
Rick Kehoe #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Boston Bruins. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Kehoe scored at 9:42 in the second period, followed by a Lowell MacDonald goal at 11:01, and then Kehoe completed the hat trick with goals at 11:24 and 14:37. Things were looking great… until the Penguins imploded. With 8:35 left in the third, the Penguins were leading 6-2 and had tallied three power-play goals on the night. The Sabres scored four goals in three minutes and 40 seconds, and then Gil Perreault netted the game-winner with 21 seconds left.

MacDonald didn’t mince words when talking with the media about the game. He told the Pittsburgh Press’s Dan Donovan that the game was “A disaster. That’s all you can say about it.”

Related: 10 Greatest Pittsburgh Penguins in Franchise History

Sidney Crosby – Nov. 28, 2018, vs. Avalanche

Seven days before Hornqvist’s record-making goals, Crosby stepped up to show the Penguins what a comeback should look like. Good thing, too, because he was the only member of the Black and Gold to put forth any effort in the game.

The Crosby Show began just 49 seconds into the second period when he took the team’s only penalty, two minutes for holding the stick. The Penguins were down by only one goal at that point, but the deficit increased by two with marks from Erik Johnson and Colin Wilson early in the period.

Not to be denied, Crosby scored two goals with less than a minute left in the second period, the latter of which was an unassisted power-play marker. He also notched the first goal of the third period at 4:43 to complete the natural hat trick, in five minutes and 35 seconds, and tie the score. Crosby’s one-man effort was forgotten when Gabriel Landeskog took the go-ahead goal at 10:05, and Nathan MacKinnon hit an empty net to widen the gap. To add some extra salt to the wound, Tristan Jarry returned to the net and Soderberg slipped another one past him with 16 seconds left in the game.

Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby Colorado Avalanche Mikko Rantanen
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Despite the loss, Crosby’s heroics set the stage for the Dec. 4 meeting in Pittsburgh, and also enabled Hornqvist’s hat trick to qualify the team for a spot on the list of natural hat tricks against the same team in one season.

Phil Kessel and Guentzel have also scored hat tricks in the 2018-19 season, both at home. Time will tell if one of them, or another ambitious Penguins player, will come gunning for Hornqvist’s new title before the season is over.