Tonight, not only did the Pittsburgh Penguins hand out adorable sock penguins to all of the fans in attendance at CONSOL Energy Center, but they also gave the fans a night to remember by putting on a goal-scoring clinic.
The Pens defeated the Arizona Coyotes, 6-0, and Patric Hornqvist earned the first hat trick of his career. Previously, Hornqvist had posted 18 two-goal games in 487 career NHL games. It took him to 488 to get that elusive third.
"Obviously it feels great to get that first one out of the way and hopefully there are more coming here," Hornqvist said about his hat trick. "I've been struggling to get the third goal. I think I've had almost 20 games with two goals, and I couldn't get the third one. It was nice to get one tonight."
The first line stole the show, earning a combined total of nine points between Sidney Crosby (3A), Chris Kunitz (1G-1A) and Patric Hornqvist (3G-1A).
"We were just working hard I think," Crosby explained. "Forced some turnovers. We were strong in and around the net. A couple of (Hornqvist's) goals were right outside the crease as usual. 'Kuni's' there, the tip he's right there. It's no secret that's where you need to go to score goals and the guys did a good job of being there."
Just over five minutes into the first period, the Pens' first line got on the scoresheet. The Pens successfully trapped the Coyotes in their defensive zone with great offensive pressure. Crosby and Kunitz worked the puck in the corner, and then, Kunitz shouldered Coyotes' defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson off the puck to create a turnover. Crosby picked up the loose puck and threw a low shot towards the net creating a rebound for Hornqvist to put in after fighting off two Coyotes defensemen.
"I think 'Sid' and 'Kuni' did a good job of getting the puck there and we created that little scrum in front of the net," Hornqvist explained.
The Pens' first line continued to generate chances every time they stepped on the ice and eventually earned themselves another goal with two minutes left in the first period. Crosby carried the puck into the offensive zone and fired a cross-ice pass to Kunitz. Kunitz then lobbed a wrist shot through the slot and Hornqvist got a piece of it while driving to the net.
"We all know that starts are an important part especially for us lately," Crosby said. "It's something that we really focused on and came out strong, got the lead, got some power plays there, and got a lot of momentum. Obviously going into the third with a 4-0 lead is a good way to go into it."
As they entered the second period, the first line continued to apply relentless offensive pressure and found the back of the net two more times. Ten minutes into the second, after receiving a pass from Crosby, Letang snapped a shot on net, and Kunitz held a strong net-front presence and tipped the shot past Coyotes' netminder Louis Domingue for his 12th goal of the season.
Shortly after Kunitz's goal the Pens found themselves on the power play. A mere 30 seconds into the man advantage Hornqvist lit the lamp for the 15th time this season and third time of the game. Pens fans graciously awarded him with a shower of hats and sock penguins cascading from the stands.
Hornqvist got a kick out of the sock penguins flying at him.
"I saw a few in our stall before the game, so I thought they were going to throw some out," Hornqvist laughed. "That was pretty funny."
Crosby, Kunitz, and Hornqvist were clearly the strongest line on the ice in tonight's game, and if they continue to battle as hard as they did, we can expect to see them repeatedly dominate the scoresheet throughout the rest of the season.
"Obviously you can see their production on the scoresheet," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "We were glad to see they got rewarded tonight for their efforts. I think they've been playing hard as of late here the last week or so. It hasn't translated on the scoresheet in the last week or so, but tonight it did for them. You can see when those guys are going."