Hornqvist’s quick natural hat trick lifts Penguins past Avalanche
Already having blown a three-goal lead they built in the first period, the Pittsburgh Penguins came into the third period Tuesday night on their heels.
Patric Hornqvist doesn’t know how to play on his heels.
The fiery Swedish winger scored three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 47 seconds, leading the Penguins to a 6-3 victory over the red-hot Colorado Avalanche at PPG Paints Arena.
It was the fastest natural hat trick in Penguins history.
The Avalanche came into the game on an 11-game points streak (9-0-2). The Penguins came in losers of two straight and seven of their previous 10.
Hornqvist’s onslaught started on the power play when Kris Letang, who had a blocked shot turned into a shorthanded goal earlier in the game, put a puck on net from the left point. Hornqvist grabbed the rebound and scored a turnaround goal at about six minutes in to make it 4-3.
On his next shift, Evgeni Malkin stole a puck in the neutral zone and fed Hornqvist on the right wing for a shot that went in under the arm of goalie Semyon Varlamov.
On the shift after that, after the Penguins forced a turnover on the forecheck, a Hornqvist shot from the slot deflected off a defender and eluded Varlamov to make it 6-3.
The Penguins played most of the game without winger Dominik Simon, who suffered an injury in the first period.
The Penguins came into the game smarting from a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
In that game, Letang said his mistakes in coverage were a big reason for the loss, and the second and third lines centered by Malkin and Derick Brassard produced little to no offense.
All three got some measure of redemption quickly.
First came Letang. Brian Dumoulin patiently held a puck at the left point, waiting for Letang to cross the blue line. He took a pass, danced past former Penguins defenseman Ian Cole and banked a pass in off Jake Guentzel’s skate on the left wing less than three minutes in.
Next came Malkin. Off an offensive-zone faceoff win, Hornqvist took a shot that was blocked, Tanner Pearson took a shot that was partially blocked and Malkin flicked the loose puck past Varlamov at the 6:52 mark.
It was Malkin’s first even-strength goal in 15 games, a drought that dated to Oct. 30.
Thirty-five seconds later, it was Brassard’s turn. The third line won a battle for a loose puck in the right-wing corner of the offensive zone and shoved a cross-ice pass to Olli Maatta at the left point. Maatta faked a shot and sent a slap pass into the slot for a Brassard redirection to make it 3-0.
The Penguins also got a dose of good fortune in the first period.
Guentzel’s redirection of Letang’s pass might have been ruled a kick under different circumstances. Later, coach Mike Sullivan successfully challenged a J.T. Compher goal on the grounds of goalie interference on Carl Soderberg.
The bounces evened out in the second period as the Avalanche scored three unanswered goals.
First, seconds after a possible trip by Nathan MacKinnon on Derek Grant went uncalled, Tyson Barrie scored on a power-play one-timer to make it 3-1.
Then, a mostly blocked Cole shot from the right point bounced toward the net, where Soderberg whacked in it out of the air.
Finally, Matt Nieto picked up a blocked Letang shot, took off up the right wing, cut to the middle of the ice and scored shorthanded to make it 3-3.
It was the league-leading seventh shorthanded goal allowed by the Penguins this season.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.