At Tuesday's morning skate ahead of the Penguins' contest against the Colorado Avalanche at PPG Paints Arena, Patric Hornqvist seemed especially fired up - and that's saying something.
He was flying around and scored some nice goals during the session before Sidney Crosby made a play that had everyone ooh-ing and ahh-ing. At that point, Hornqvist pretended to leave the ice, joking that he couldn't compete with a play like that.
Turns out, he was more than capable of making a few plays of his own.
The Pens' heart and soul stepped up when his team needed him most, scoring a natural hat trick in the third period to put Pittsburgh up 6-3, which stood as the final score after blowing an early 3-0 lead.
Hornqvist's three goals came in the span of 2:47 minutes, which set a new record for the fastest hat trick in Pens franchise history, topping the previous mark of 4:10 minutes set by Nils Ekman in 2006.
They also came on the PPG Hat Giveaway Night, which meant more ball caps than usual descended to the ice afterward. One of the hats was even waiting for Hornqvist in his stall after the game, so he donned it for his postgame interview.
"It's a good night to get a hat trick," Hornqvist said with a laugh. "Big third period for us, so build from that."
Hornqvist's first goal came on the power play, which had allowed a shorthanded goal for the second straight game during the second period. But as Pens head coach Mike Sullivan said after the game, he believes in that group and his gut instinct was to keep them together when they were awarded a power play in the third period.
His gut instinct turned out to be correct, as Hornqvist tallied just 24 seconds in when he collected a rebound and deposited it in the net.
"That felt great," Hornqvist said. "Our power play hasn't been great lately. We just have to simplify the game. We've been together for so long and we've been successful. So do what you're good at and make sure you support your teammates out there. Go to your spot, support the puck and then when things open up take your shot and then crash the net."
On the second goal, Evgeni Malkin fed Hornqvist with a pass just inside the blue line. He carried in and took a slap shot from the bottom of the circle that somehow found its way past Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov. On the third goal, Hornqvist managed to corral a loose puck in the slot that he put on net and got rewarded.
"The two last ones, they were lucky ones," he said. "It's just that you have one of those days sometimes when the puck is just coming right on your stick. You don't think, you shoot. If you don't know where it's going I don't think the goalie does either (laughs)."
Hornqvist couldn't wipe the smile off his face he was shown on the videoboard while the Pens' ice crew cleaned up the hats during the game, and neither could Sullivan when talking about his forward's character and leadership.
"I'm just thrilled for him," Sullivan said. "He's a terrific person and great teammate. His positive energy is so evident when he's around our group. On a night like tonight, we're thrilled for him. He plays the game so hard. He takes so many cross-checks and he goes to the dirty areas. He competes and battles. He just wants to win. He's such a competitive guy. I thought tonight he had a great night for us. We're certainly thrilled that he got a hat trick."