While Eric Nystrom didn't get the hat trick he was inititally credited for, he did pot two goals in the Calgary Flames 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens and helped his club keep a perfect record.
As hats rained down after the announcement of the Flames fourth tally, now listed as Staffan Kronwall's first NHL goal, Nystrom was shown chatting and chuckling with Jarome Iginla on the bench. He immediately knew the goal wasn't his but that didn't quell the immediate joy of having it announced he had scored his first career hat trick.
"Even though I knew I didn’t score, I was like 'Alright, I’ll take it,'" he laughed. "It didn’t hit me. My stick was right there and it hit the guy’s stick right in front of mine and it got a great bounce."
Did he go and grab any just in case the goal remained attributed to him?
"Nah. I want to save it for when I get my first real one. Then maybe I’ll keep some."
Nystrom's two tallies puts him just three goals away from his career-high five in 76 games last campaign. He's also sharing the top spot in the plus-minus category with Adam Pardy. Both are holding onto an impressive +5 rating.
"We’re happy with this win. It was a gritty win and we played a lot better tonight than we have the past couple of games. For our line to be the difference is nice but we’ve got to help this team win in certain ways and it’s going to be different guys every night and we’re just happy it was us tonight."
He also dropped the gloves with Kyle Chipchura. The lengthy battle saw both men take several hits to the face but neither gave in. Eventually the refs had to pull them apart as the crowd gave them a standing ovation. As they sat in the penalty box, they were laughing over the scrap.
"He threw about 10 punches and five of them landed so I was like 'How accurate are those things?' Luckily they didn’t do too much damage," said Nystrom, who was already sporting a black eye. "I was trying to give us a little bit of momentum because we had given up those two quick goals late in the period. That’s part of my role and it worked out pretty good."
Nystrom and his linemates, Brandon Prust and Fredrik Sjostrom, have come out of the gate flying. The so-called fourth line has been the most potent offensively in the Flames first three game and have been defensively solid as well. While Nystrom is the "sniper" of the trio with two goals to his name, he gives full credit to the other two for their contributions.
"It's so easy to play with those guys," he said. "I’ve played with Prusty for a while in the minors and he’s one of my best friends so I know his game pretty well. Freddy’s so easy to play with. He just makes simple plays and we’re a simple line. We just go up and down, get pucks behind and we cycle. It’s not a huge math equation but it’s been working."
Even with the coaching change this season, Nystrom hasn't had to alter his game that much.
"It's an easy game. We’re just chipping pucks in and having guys go in and make a hit. We’re helping each other out. It’s a good formula for a fourth line."
Despite playing a similar game to his previous seasons, there is an obvious spark that this fourth line has compared to those of the last few seasons.
"I think the thing that separates us this year from past years is that we’ve got some good chemistry," Nystrom said. "We seem to be finding each other and that’s something you can’t teach. It’s just something that you just develop. Those guys honestly make the game so easy to play."
"We don’t have one guy whose just going to sit around and wait. If there’s a loose puck all three of us are going to go for it. Freddy’s got great wheels and Prusty is great in the corners so he always makes little plays in the corners that opens up some ice for himself. I think I just go in there and crash and stand in front of the net and try to get some garbage."
Prust and Sjostrom aren't just drawing praise from the linemate. Everyone seems to have noticed the how much energy and jump the trio is bringing to games.
"Well, I don't want to say it's a pleasant surprise, because then you'd think I'm surprised," coach Brent Sutter said. "I'm pleasantly happy that they've been playing that way. Again, their detail, their work ethic, their commitment to sacrifice has been very good. And they're being rewarded for it."
"A couple fights, a few goals, it was a great game for them," said captain Jarome Iginla. "It's huge momentum when they go out and play in the other team's end, and play physical, and play with energy."
Nystrom was even getting some compliments from the opposition.
"I saw him score 17 goals playing on a line with him in Michigan," former teammate Michael Cammalleri told the media. "Even last year, you can attest to some of the plays he makes when he gets a chance. You get a little open ice, he makes a nice fake. He scored probably three or four highlight reel goals last year."
As the team goes forward, Nystrom is only concerned with his line being responsible at both ends of the rink.
"We’ve just got to make sure we’re good defensively and keeping pucks out of our own net. Offense is obviously an added bonus but we’re playing well in the offensive zone and I think we’re capable of doing it the whole year. We want to continue to keep our confidence high and not get big heads but keep playing well."