On this night, Sam Steel truly was Superman.
Steel had the game of his life, becoming just the second rookie in franchise history to score a hat trick to propel the Ducks to a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Tuesday. At 21 years, 51 days, he was also the youngest to achieve the feat, besting Bobby Ryan's 21 years, 297 days. (Ryan became the first Ducks rookie to record a hat trick on Jan. 8, 2009 at LA.)
"It's a big night," Steel said after the game. "To get it with the team winning, it's pretty special. Definitely something I'll remember."
It's amazing what time in the American Hockey League can do for a young player. Steel earned a spot on the Opening Night roster and made his NHL debut on Oct. 3, 2018 at San Jose, but posted three points (1g/2a) in his first 13 games with the Ducks before being reassigned to the San Diego Gulls. In 50 games with San Diego, the Sherwood Park, Alberta native led Gulls rookies in goals (18) and ranked second in assists (21) and points (39). Like with fellow rookies Troy Terry and Kiefer Sherwood, Steel came back to the Ducks with a renewed confidence, and it showed.
He displayed his speed on his first goal when he used a burst to separate himself from the pack as he raced down the ice on a breakaway on Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Steel tucked the shot through the five hole at the 9:09 mark of the first period to open the scoring.
Video: ANA@VAN: Steel finishes off end-to-end rush
His second goal was the result of sticking with the play when he pounced on a juicy rebound off the initial shot from Sherwood. Steel found the puck at the edge of the left faceoff dot and buried it to tie the game, 2-2, after the Canucks scored two unanswered goals from Jake Virtanen and Alex Edler at the 12:50 and 19:00-minute marks of the first period, respectively.
Video: ANA@VAN: Steel buries rebound for second goal
Steel capped off his hat trick when he was tabbed to take a penalty shot after Canucks forward Markus Granlund was penalized for pushing a broken stick into the puck. Because it occurred in the defensive zone, the Ducks were awarded a penalty shot, as outlined in Rule 53.6, which states: When any member of the defending team, including the coach or any non-playing person, throws or shoots any part of a stick or any other object or piece of equipment at the puck or puck carrier in his defending zone, the referee or linesman shall allow the play to be completed and if a goal is not scored, a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team. This shot shall be taken by the player designated by the referee as the player fouled. (Full description can be found on Page 92 of the NHL Rule Book.)
Steel's penalty shot was a thing of beauty, as he smacked a backhander top shelf to make it 3-2. Per NHL Public Relations, Steel became just the third rookie in NHL history to score a regular-season hat trick, which included a penalty-shot goal, joining Eric Lindros (Dec. 26, 1992) and Teemu Selanne (March 9, 1993). Steel also became the youngest player in Ducks franchise history to score on a penalty shot. Ondrej Kase was previously the youngest player at 21 years and 350 days when he scored on a penalty shot vs. Philadelphia on Oct. 24, 2017.
Video: ANA@VAN: Steel scores on penalty shot for hatty
"It was pretty cool," Steel said, on being chosen for the penalty shot. "Before they decided, some guys were giving me nudges and stuff. When I got the call, I started thinking about what to do. It worked. Happy they chose me."
Terry was on the bench when the penalty took place, and admits he was quite vocal when he and his teammates found out a player already on the ice had to take the penalty shot. "I don't think anyone realized we were going to get a penalty shot out of that," he said. "As soon as we found out it had to be someone on the ice, we all started saying Steeler! Steeler! He clearly wasn't nervous, especially when he scored it like that."
The Ducks tacked on goals from Rickard Rakell and Sherwood in the third period to give them a 5-2 lead before Josh Leivo responded with 6:26 left on the clock to make it 5-3. The Canucks made things interesting 54 seconds later when Tanner Pearson jumped on a loose puck to cut the deficit to one goal, but the Ducks held off a late surge to preserve the win. John Gibson made 28 saves for his 24th win of the season.
Video: ANA@VAN: Rakell whips home shot from circle for PPG
Video: ANA@VAN: Sherwood scores off turnover to pad lead
The Ducks will return to action on Friday night against the Western Conference-leading Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome.