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The LA Kings' Hat Trick of Hat Tricks

In 1990, Dave Taylor, Tomas Sandström, and Tony Granato set an NHL record when they each scored three goals

by Mike Commito @mikecommito /

It was a hat trick of hat tricks. In the fourth game of the LA Kings' opening round playoff series against the Calgary Flames, on April 10, 1990, three Kings, Dave Taylor, Tomas Sandström, and Tony Granato, each picked up three goals in a 12-4 rout of the defending Stanley Cup champions to take a 3-1 series lead. It was the first time in NHL history that three players on the same team each recorded a hat trick in a playoff game. 

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Taylor got LA on the board first with a power play goal less than seven minutes into the contest.

"We scored early and often," the veteran King remembered. "We had three goals in the first seven shots."

Less than two minutes after Taylor's tally, Granato notched his third of the post-season to extend the Kings' lead. "It was one of those games when you go into it expecting a tight checking battle and scratch and claw for every chance, but for whatever reason it was one of those games that was wide open," Granato recollected. "The puck bounced our way and every time we got a chance it seemed like it went into the back of the net."

Not long after Granato found the twine, his linemate Sandström did as well. Both players were elated to have their centerman, Wayne Gretzky, back between them. Gretzky, who had been sidelined with a back injury since March 22, returned to the lineup two nights earlier. "For me and Tony playing with Gretz, you always had a chance to score a hat trick every night," Sandström recalled fondly. 

Although Calgary pulled Mike Vernon after Sandström's goal, his replacement, Rick Wamsley, didn't fare much better. Taylor notched his second of the evening less than a minute after Wamsley entered the crease. The Flames reportedly didn't register their first shot of the game until the last few minutes of the opening period and, by then, the Kings went into the first intermission up 4-0.  

Tweet from @mikecommito: On this day in 1990, the @LAKings trounced the Flames 12-4. Dave Taylor, Tomas Sandstr��m, and Tony Granato each recorded hat tricks in the record-setting win #Hockey365 #GoKingsGo

Despite the lead, Granato and the rest of the squad knew they couldn't take their foot off the gas.

"They were a team that we certainly respected as a Stanley Cup favourite and we prepared to try to pull off an upset and that was one of those games where we got under their skin and frustrated their skilled players," he said. "We got them off balance real early in the game and just kept rolling."

And roll they did. Just over two minutes into the second period, Granato scored again to put the game out of reach for the Flames. Although Gretzky hadn't assisted on Granato's first, he set up that up the second one by dishing the puck over to his wide-open winger.

"When you play on Wayne Gretzky's line, no matter if it's a playoff game or an exhibition game, it doesn't matter what kind of game it is, you're going to get your chances," Granato recalled. 

"He made it as easy as anybody in the world could make it for you as a linemate. The reason I got three goals that night was because Wayne put them on my stick or put me in a position where I always had a chance to do well."

The Flames seemed so preoccupied with trying to contain Gretzky that they just left Granato alone at the top of the crease and even though they converged on him after Gretzky got him the puck, it was too late. He made a quick move around Wamsley and just like that it was 5-0. 
For Sandström, that was one of the best parts about playing with the Great One; he always created so much room for his linemates. 

"It looked like the other team just kept an eye on Wayne and you know he kind of liked that, too," he said. "The thing for me and Tony was just to try to get open when he had the puck and it was always perfect passes."

After the Kings' Jay Miller scored to extend the team's lead even further, Sandström scored his second of the night, with an assist from Gretzky, who picked up his third helper. 

Although Sandström and his linemate, Granato, were both working on hat tricks, he doesn't remember that thought crossing their minds at all during the game. 

"I don't think we were thinking that way," the Swedish winger recollected. "I think we were just happy to score a few goals. I don't think as a player you really keep track of who has scored the goals. You were just so focused on the game. I don't think as a player you really care who scores the goals. The most important thing is that you win the game."

While the Flames finally got on the board that frame, scoring four goals, the Kings added two more tallies to cap off a combined seven-goal period to head into the final 20 minutes of regulation with a 9-4 advantage. 

As Taylor, Granato, and Sandström returned to the bench for the third period, they were each sitting at two goals apiece. Just before the halfway mark, Taylor was the first of the trio to score again, triggering a flurry of hats and a raucous ovation from the faithful at the Great Western Forum as the Kings hit the double-digit goal mark. 

Tweet from @mikecommito: Just before the halfway mark in the third period, Dave Taylor charged out of the penalty box and became the first of the trio to complete the hat trick #Hockey365 #GoKingsGo

Although Taylor doesn't recall much about the first two he scored that evening, he knew precisely how he picked up his third.

"I came out of the [penalty] box and I had a breakaway from the red line in," he said. "I think I went low stick side on Wamsley." I hadn't even had the chance to watch the goal before I interviewed Taylor by telephone but his recollection was pretty much exactly how it happened more than three decades ago.  

Less than four minutes later, Sandström was up next. After getting the puck from his linemates, he fired it from the right faceoff circle to complete the trick and notch the Kings' 11th goal that evening, establishing a new team record for the most goals scored in a playoff game. 
Although it was the first time that both he and Taylor had recorded a hat trick in the post-season, Sandström didn't get caught up in the moment with six minutes still remaining on the clock.

"I don't think we realized that until after the game when we sat down and talked about it," he said. "It's not a thing that you think about during the game." 

Tweet from @mikecommito: Less than five minutes later, Tomas Sandstr��m potted his third of the night to make it 11-4, establishing a new @LAKings record for most goals in a playoff game #Hockey365 #GoKingsGo

While Granato was just a goal away from joining his teammates and setting NHL history, he was actually reticent about reaching the milestone. By that point the Kings were already up by a touchdown and he didn't want to rub it into the opponent any further.

"I remember playing that third period somewhat conservatively, just trying to make sure we finished the game in a respectful way," he said. "Then we got a 5-on-3 and the coach put me out there and I had the chance and threw it at the net and it went in."

When the final buzzer sounded and the Kings retired to their dressing room, the gravity of the moment finally set in on them, Taylor, Granato, and Sandström had become the first set of teammates to record hat tricks in the same game.

"After the game and you sit down and look at the scoresheet, all of a sudden you say 'oh, we had three guys that scored hat tricks,'" Sandström chuckled. 

Tweet from @mikecommito: And last but not least, with less than three minutes remaining, Tony Granato completed the hat trick as well, marking the first time in NHL history that three teammates each scored a hat trick in the same game #Hockey365 #GoKingsGo

Taylor, who had been with the team for more than a decade and had been a part of some epic playoff games including a lamp-lighting 10-8 victory against the Oilers and the "Miracle on Manchester," exactly eight years earlier, but even he had never experienced that many hat tricks in one game.

"I had been around since '77 and never had seen anything like that," he said. "When you look back and you had three guys who managed to get three hat tricks, that's a cool piece of history."

What sticks out for Granato after all these years is that if you were ask someone today which Kings recorded the hat tricks, you would have to figure that they would bet that Luc Robitaille would have been on that list. "How did Luc not get three that night," he laughed. "He probably had three before that game or three in the game after. 

Although Granato thinks there might have been more likely candidates to record a three-goal performance that night, he knows how special it was to be a part of that.

"When you look back at it now and see three players having a hat trick in the same game, I don't ever see that happening again," he said. "There's so many great players that it could happen but that's a hard feat to do, having three players in the same game get a hat trick."

While Granato thinks it's a longshot, he hopes to see it happen someday. And you never know, it could happen. That's the great thing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Anything can happen and any player can become a part of hockey folklore.  

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