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The Inside Scoop: Guentzel's Goals

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The day after Pittsburgh's 3-1 win over Columbus in Game 1 of their First Round series, Sidney Crosby had a crowd of reporters around his stall. They spilled over into Jake Guentzel's neighboring stall, so the rookie forward sat down nearby and patiently waited for Crosby to finish up.

I told Guentzel that while he waited, he could do a 1-on-1 interview with me for PensTV. Since I know Guentzel isn't entirely comfortable talking to the media, and because hockey players are a superstitious group, I let him know that the last player I did a 1-on-1 with - Bryan Rust - scored a big goal in Game 1.

"I'm good luck," I told Guentzel, who laughed and said, "Perfect."

We did the interview, and the next day, Guentzel scored his first career NHL playoff goal in the Pens' 4-1 win in Game 2. When he walked into the locker room following the game, he and I looked at each other and both just started laughing. "I told you!" I said. "I know, I know," he responded. "You were right!"

So before tonight's Game 3 in Columbus, Guentzel was preparing his stick in the hallway outside the Pens locker room when I was walking through.

"Hey Jake," I said. "Consider this our conversation."

"Perfect," he said again. "I like it."

After we chatted, what did he go on to do in the game?

He scored a hat trick, including the overtime game-winner, in the Pens' 5-4 victory to give them a 3-0 series lead. And again, we both just started cracking up in the locker room afterward.

"I love it," Guentzel said. "It's awesome."

Even more awesome, of course, was the feeling of becoming the first rookie in franchise history to score a postseason hat trick. He's the second rookie in NHL playoff history to score a hat trick and overtime goal in the same game, the first being Montreal's Gerry Plamondon in 1949.

"What a game," he said. "It was so fun to be a part of. I think the playoffs brings out everyone's best in their game."

Even though Guentzel is just 22 years old and is skating in his first NHL postseason, his coach and teammates aren't surprised he's been able to rise to the occasion like he has so far.

"Jake is mature beyond his years," Mike Sullivan said. "He's a real good player. I don't think the stage is too big. He's got a quiet confidence about him that he's displayed from Day 1 that he's been part of the Penguins."

"He's got the right approach," Sidney Crosby added. "He just goes out there every shift and works and competes. He's got a ton of skill, so the way he competes, he generates a lot."

What stood out about his trio of tallies - well, all four of his goals so far this series, really - is that he's showed zero hesitation in getting the puck to the net.

Tonight, Guentzel's first two came off sharp angles, but that didn't stop him. As soon as the puck touched his stick, he released it and got rewarded both times.

The third came when Crosby did a tremendous job of working the puck behind the net before finding Guentzel at the top of the crease, where he quickly ripped it past Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who's the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie.

"When you're playing a goalie like Bobrovsky, you have to surprise him," Guentzel said. "You just have to get the shots off quick."

If he keeps doing that - and keeps talking to me - the streak may just continue.

Video: PIT@CBJ, Gm3: Guentzel completes hatty for OT win

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