PITTSBURGH -- Less than two months ago, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist had never scored a hat trick in the NHL.
Hornqvist now has two after scoring three goals in Pittsburgh's 5-2 win against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday.
Nearing the end of an otherwise lackluster first period, Hornqvist provided the spark Pittsburgh needed. After lobbing a pass off the end boards from the neutral zone, Hornqvist charged into the offensive zone as forward Conor Sheary outraced everyone to the puck.
Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Hornqvist jams puck home for the lead
Hornqvist, who scored his first NHL hat trick against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 29, maintained a straight line toward the net and poked a rebound through Lundqvist with 17.6 seconds remaining in the period.
"It was a good night for me," Hornqvist said. "Obviously, our first period was not as good as we wanted, but we get that late goal and then I think we took over the game. We played the right way and came up with a big win."
Hornqvist played a role in four of Pittsburgh's goals, including Sidney Crosby's with 1:04 remaining in the second period. Crosby finished a breakaway with a sharp wrist shot over goalie Antti Raanta's glove, but Hornqvist made it possible by squeezing a pass between two diving Rangers defensemen, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal.
Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Hornqvist jams the puck into the net
"Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't," Crosby said. "He had to make a great play just to settle it down and to get it to me with Girardi stretched out there, so it was just a great play by him."
Hornqvist's final two goals weren't as dazzling as his first or his assist to Crosby, but were no less important. His backhand 8:02 into the third period and empty-net goal with 2:50 remaining each gave the Penguins a three-goal cushion on their way to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 2 is here Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Hornqvist notches the empty-net goal
Hornqvist became the first Penguins player to score a hat trick in the playoffs since Evgeni Malkin in Game 6 of the 2014 first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the first player in Penguins history to score three goals in a playoff Game 1. The prior to do so for any team was Alexander Mogilny of the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 9, 2003, against the Philadelphia Flyers, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"It's hard not to love that guy," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Hornqvist. "He plays the game so hard. He's such a passionate guy. He goes to the net. He plays in the battle areas. So, for him to get rewarded tonight, I think it was great."