Koltsov scores hat trick in tie |

Koltsov scores hat trick in tie

Karen Price

Konstantin Koltsov’s ludicrous speed on the ice has long been his most attractive quality as a Penguins prospect. The 22-year-old forward might break a sweat in a foot race against Apollo Anton Ohno, but not many others.

His hands, however, have been a different story.

The idea that they might one day catch up to his feet had to make general manager Craig Patrick shudder when he drafted him in the first round (23rd overall) in the 1998 Entry Draft. But in his rookie year with Wilkes-Barre, Koltsov totaled just nine goals and 21 assists in 65 games.

On Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Koltsov got a third of the way to his goal total from last year, scoring a hat trick in a 5-5 tie. Whether his onslaught was a fluke or an indication of finding a finishing touch, Koltsov pleased at least one very important person with his performance last night.

“I was pretty impressed the way he handled the puck and got in the open,” said Mario Lemieux, who had two assists in his first preseason game in two years. “His speed is incredible, and it showed on two of his goals. Plus his hands, everybody says he has no hands, but he had a couple good goals that he was able to pull the puck away and go upstairs. He proved (last night) that he can score.”

Koltsov was the beneficiary of some tidy passing by Lemieux, Martin Straka and Aleksey Morozov on the power play for his first goal. But his two second-period tallies were goal-scorers’ goals.

The first was a shot from the left wing that beat goaltender Fred Brathwaite on the glove side at 3:57 after blowing through the neutral zone and catching the puck just outside the blue line. The second came after Lemieux won a faceoff in the Penguins’ end over to Koltsov, who punched it through the neutral zone and caught up to it at the hash mark of the right circle in front of Brathwaite. He got the puck on his backhand, turned it over onto his forehand and went upstairs for the hat trick with a minute left in the second period.

“That was a tough play. … Not too many guys can do that at that speed,” said Lemieux, who played 20 minutes and skated on a line with Koltsov and Straka.

Rico Fata and Matt Murley also scored for the Penguins (1-3-1), who outshot the Blue Jackets 16-6 in the third period but were outscored 2-0 to tie a game they led 5-3 lead after 40 minutes. Andrej Nedorost scored twice for the Blue Jackets, whom the Penguins face in Columbus on Sunday in their final contest of the preseason.

Marc-Andre Fleury will play in tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals’ in Portland, Maine. The remaining roster includes: goaltender Andy Chiodo, defensemen Dan Focht, Brooks Orpik, David Koci, Patrick Boileau, Ross Lupaschuk and Robert Scuderi, and forwards Ramzi Abid, Eric Meloche, Ryan Malone, Colby Armstrong, Tom Kostopoulos, Fata, Murley, Milan Kraft, Morozov, Reid Simpson, Kris Beech and Matt Bradley.

Two of the Blue Jackets’ goals came during five-on-five play, ending the Penguins’ streak of three games in a row without a five-on-five goal against. The other three were on the power play. The Penguins have allowed nine power-play goals against on 34 opportunities in five games.

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