DETROIT -- As the time passed during the second period of Saturday's game between the Detroit Red Wings and the visiting New Jersey Devils, Little Caesars Arena held its collective breath.
At that point, Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin had two goals, and Detroit held a 3-1 lead. But there was something special brewing in Hockeytown, and everyone knew it.
With 4:18 left in the period, Larkin's chance presented itself - a feed from Kyle Criscuolo found the captain wide-open on his backhand near mid-ice. Larkin raced through the neutral zone, cut to his forehand and shot it past the pad of Devils goaltender Akira Schmid for his third goal of the night.
Video: NJD@DET: Larkin scores 3 for his 1st NHL hat trick
Fans drowned out the Red Wings' goal horn. Winter beanies and baseball caps fled the ice. Little Caesars Arena was the loudest it's been all season, making Larkin's feat and his post-goal celebration that much more special.
After the game, Larkin admitted the hat trick was a long time coming.
"Minor hockey, I think," Larkin said with a smile. "Even in juniors and AAA, I don't even think I had one. It's been a while."
It was Larkin's first three-goal game of his career, and Detroit's sixth hat trick of 2021. The last time the Red Wings recorded more hat tricks in a single calendar year was in 1992. That year, current Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman recorded three hat tricks, Jimmy Carson tallied two and Kevin Miller and Paul Ysebaert each had one.
Video: Dylan Larkin Mic'd Up vs. New York Islanders
For the Waterford, Mich., native, it's an accomplishment that goes beyond the franchise's record books.
"It did feel good," Larkin said. "You know, I'd obviously never had one. I think about my nana. She'd always give me $5 every goal, like most proud nanas do. They're always like, 'Will you score a hat trick? Just do it!' And I'm always like, 'Nana, it's kind of hard, you know?' So, this one's definitely for my nana and my grandma."
Larkin also joined linemates Lucas Raymond and Tyler Bertuzzi as the third Red Wings skater to net at least three goals in a game this season. When asked about his strong start this season, Larkin credited his linemates as part of his success.
"Having Tyler and Lucas there, it helps a lot. I know I'm going to get chances," Larkin said. "We create a lot, we play the right way. It gives me confidence to get into a rhythm."
The 25-year-old is certainly making the most of his chances. This season, Larkin leads the Red Wings with 15 goals and 29 points in 27 games. He is also third in assists with 14, behind only Raymond and Moritz Seider, who both have 18. His 15 goals are tied for 10th in the NHL alongside Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes and Jake Guentzel of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Larkin has already eclipsed his goals (9) and points (23) totals from last season's condensed, 56-game schedule. The 15th overall pick from the 2014 NHL Draft said the biggest factor in his production this season has been his confidence.
"I just feel confident with the puck. There's been times, a couple of weeks ago, where I wasn't feeling confident," Larkin said. "Now, it's come back a little bit here. Things are going well, and we need to keep playing the right way to create those chances."
His first hat trick helped him earn the NHL's First Star honors for the week ending Dec. 19. Larkin led the league with five goals and seven points in three games. Alongside Larkin, Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues and Nikolaj Ehlers of the Winnipeg Jets were named the second and third stars, respectively.
Detroit goalie Thomas Greiss was the last Red Wings player to be named to the NHL's "Three Stars," and was honored for the week ending May 2, 2021.