Right from the start of the game, he was flying out there. Very happy for him, a great performance, he played well. Here's a young kid that was working so hard, it's nice to see that he's getting rewarded. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- He didn’t get credit for an assist on any of Sam Bennett’s four goals against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, but goaltender Jonas Hiller is willing to take some, anyway.
Tongue firmly planted in cheek, of course.
“I’m really happy for him,” Hiller started. “I told him yesterday not to take any breakaways on me because I don’t want to steal his confidence, so he didn’t. I guess it paid off.”
No word of a lie.
“It is true,” Bennett confirmed. “Normally we take some breakaways after practice. I think it was more like he didn’t want to kill my confidence. That’s what he told me. We’ll see what happens next practice.”
And the next game.
Because it’ll be hard for Bennett to top his performance in the 6-0 blanking of the Panthers.
Bennett is the youngest player in Flames history to get a hat trick, at 19 years, 207 days, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Jim Peplinski, at 21 years, 24 days, held the previous record as part of a four-goal game on Nov. 17, 1981, against the Winnipeg Jets.
Bennett also became the sixth rookie in Flames history with a hat trick, joining Joe Nieuwendyk, Brett Hull, Matthew Lombardi, Josh Jooris and Gaudreau.
“I’m definitely really happy for him,” Hiller said. “He has so much skill. It’s not easy as a 19-year-old. Everybody’s eyes are on you, and when things don’t go well it’s tough to find your way out. He definitely found a way. I think that’s something that really proves he can be a really great player in this league.”
Bennett's first period hat trick was the first in the NHL since Jan. 18, 2014, when Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis scored three of his four goals in the first period against the San Jose Sharks, according to Elias.
The 19-year-old is the first Flames player to score four goals in a game since Jarome Iginla in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 23, 2003.
“I'm happy for him to get that goal last game and to really get going today,” Mikael Backlund said. “I thought he still played really well during his slump. For a young player, it's easy to just fade away, but he was being physical, was still making plays and was trying to score and it just didn't come. But if you're a natural goal scorer, eventually the goals are going to come.”
Bennett is just the third Flames rookie to score four goals in a game, following Nieuwendyk, who accomplished the feat twice, and Jan Hrdina.
He’s the third-youngest in NHL history to score four, trailing Jack Hamilton of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1943-44 and Bobby Carpenter of the Washington Capitals in 1981-82, according to Elias. Both were 18.
All just one skate removed from snapping an 18-game goalless drought.
“He skated so well and obviously we knew he was putting lots of pressure on himself by not scoring,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. “As much as we were talking to him and trying to get him to relax and play the right way, that goal the other night, the power play goal, really took lots of pressure away.
“Right from the start of the game, he was flying out there. Very happy for him, a great performance, he played well. Here's a young kid that was working so hard, it's nice to see that he's getting rewarded.”
How about that breakaway challenge?
“He claimed that I was worried that I might lose some money against him in the breakaways, so now I have something against him and say, ‘well, we can’t do breakaways anymore for the rest of the season,’” Hiller said.
“Maybe not, I don’t know,” Bennett said.