Penguins Need to Back Hornqvist’s Claim

Pittsburgh winger with bold declaration after historic hat trick

Josh Rowntree
December 04, 2018 - 11:51 pm
Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Patric Hornqvist (72) celebrate his goal with the Penguins bench against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Pittsburgh won 6-3.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Perhaps it was fueled by the sensation of riding high after a record night, but Patric Hornqvist sent a message to his team following the Penguins 6-3 win over Colorado at PPG Paints Arena. 

“I think this is the turning point of our season,” Hornqvist said, shortly after unloading three third period goals in 2 minutes, 47 seconds, the fastest hat trick in team history. 

Now, however, his teammates need to answer the call. 

The Penguins still have issues. Pittsburgh built a 3-0 first period lead, scoring on three of its first five shots. But then the foot was taken off the gas and a trio second period goals were allowed to tie the game. 

“We’ve just got to keep out swagger, we’ve got to keep trying to play the game the right way,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “If we do, and we stay competitive, we compete in puck battles and we work together, then we can compete with anyone.”

Pittsburgh’s bounce-back from allowing three straight goals was impressive. Hornqvist, obviously, was the catalyst. But the team’s overall play is encouraging. 

“It’s never a good feeling when you give up that lead,” Sullivan added. “That could go one of two ways. But I give our leadership group in that room a lot of credit because they held it together for us and they led by example.”

The Penguins leaders did step up, no question. 

Evgeni Malkin scored a goal — his first at even strength since October 30 — and assisted another. Kris Letang dished out a pair of assists, including a spectacular individual effort to get through multiple defenders before setting up Jake Guentzel’s opening goal. Derick Brassard, rumored to be a potential trade piece in what has been a horribly underwhelming season, picked up his third goal of the year. 

Perhaps the best news for Pittsburgh? Sidney Crosby did not have a point. Not to say he wasn’t a factor. Crosby drew a penalty that let to Hornqvist’s first goal. But other leaders were responsible for the big night.

“We just have to get better from this day on and we’ll be fine,” Hornqvist added.

However, the Penguins did allow an NHL leading seventh shorthanded goal, part of a second period stretch in which the team appeared to get fat and happy with a three-goal lead. Sullivan dabbled with using two defensemen with the man-advantage, but that eliminates a skilled offensive player from the power play.

“When they’re on, they’re good,” Sullivan said of his power play. “They’re as good of a power play as there is in the League. That’s why I tend to stick with them, because I believe in them. I think when they play the game hard out there and they play the game the right way, as a power play unit of five, there’s no better group in the League.”

Shorthanded goals may be the tip of the iceberg of issues for the Penguins, now back over .500 at 11-10-5 this season. But, for one night, they were able to overcome a dismal second period by leaning on, arguably, the emotional center of the team in Hornqvist. 

“Every time you need somebody to step up, you can count on that he has another level,” said defenseman Olli Maatta, who assisted Brassard’s goal. “He somehow, always, finds a way to produce. He’s always battling, he’s always working hard and when you watch him out there it’s kind of like he’s demanding that you do the same thing.”

For the Penguins sake, they better hope those demands are answered.