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Hats Off to Kunitz

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
When hats littered the ice at CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday, they weren’t for Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos, the top-two scorers in the National Hockey League.

They were for Chris Kunitz, who scored three goals -- including two re-directs from in front of the net on the power play -- in the Penguins’ 8-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Something we need to do on the power play is go to the net and put pucks there,” Kunitz said. “I found myself lucky tipping a few in. It was a good effort by everybody tonight.”

This was Kunitz’s second hat trick in his eight-year career, with the other coming on Nov. 11, 2006, against Phoenix.

He scored his first goal with 7:42 left in the first period to put the Penguins up 4-0. Kunitz skated down the right side of the ice and sniped a beauty of a wrister past Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

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Kunitz’s last two goals came in almost the exact same fashion, both on the man-advantage. On both tallies, Kris Letang slid the puck over to Alex Goligoski, who proceeded to rip a blast on net that Kunitz re-directed each time for the score.

“That’s something we looked forward to on the power play is getting pucks there,” Kunitz said. “We knew we needed to put pucks there and bodies there ... It’s nice that it worked out for us.”

After Kunitz’s third goal, however, the hats rained to the ice in a somewhat delayed fashion.

That may have been because Kunitz’s second goal had been originally been credited to Goligoski on the scoresheet before it was determined that Kunitz had tipped the puck.

“I think the guys on the bench were wondering where the hats were,” Kunitz joked. “But it’s all in good fun, it’s a good game.”

Goligoski said he tried putting the puck in a position that Kunitz would be able to find it.

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“In a game like that where we’re winning by a few and the game’s in control, if a guy has a couple goals, you want to look for him,” Goligoski said. “And definitely on the power plays, you want to try to find him. It was a great tip on him.”

On the season, Kunitz has 13 goals and 28 points through 41 games playing on a line with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis. Kunitz has been playing some of his best hockey as of late, tallying eight points (5G-3A) in his past seven games.

“Kunitz was a beast in front tonight,” Goligoski said. “Tipping everything and screening the goalie. It was a great game all-around for us.”

NOTE: Wednesday’s contest marked the first time as a Penguin that Kunitz has scored two power-play goals in one game. Pittsburgh acquired the left winger from Anaheim on Feb. 26, 2009.
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