It took Jake Guentzel all of three games to become a playoff hero. Though the Penguins rookie had already found the score sheet twice in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Blue Jackets, picking up a helper and the game-winning goal, Guentzel became a temporarily household name with his performance on Sunday.
In the first frame of Game 3, Guentzel scored an early game-tying goal, and he added his second of the contest midway through the third period, this time a go-ahead goal scored on the power play. And after Columbus fought back to knot the score at four late, it was Guentzel who would become the overtime hero for Pittsburgh, capping the best night of his young career with his third goal of the outing and the game-winner.
With the hat trick, Guentzel became the second rookie in league history to record three goals, including the overtime-winning goal, in a post-season contest. And it’s been quite some time since another rookie has managed the feat. The other, Gerry Plamondon, registered his hat trick and overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings — all the way back in 1949.
That may seem an awfully specific feat for Guentzel to match — and it no doubt is — but it’s not as if the hat trick in and of itself wasn’t a monumental one for the 22-year-old. The three goals alone put him in some exclusive company.
Here are the eight other rookies to notch a hat trick in the post-season dating back to 1987-88, the earliest year with game-to-game box score data available:
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators — April 23, 2015
Guentzel may have the most recent rookie hat trick in the post-season, but it’s not as if it’s been all that long since the last freshman lit the lamp three times. During the Predators’ first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, Forsberg took over Game 5. Forsberg’s first goal came after the Blackhawks had opened the scoring and it was his goal 3:14 into the third that sealed the deal for the Predators. Forsberg’s hat trick goal wasn’t his most impressive of the evening — he put it into a yawning cage with 11 seconds to go — but it was a hat trick nevertheless. Had Chicago been able to net one more goal, Forsberg would have had a hat trick and the game winner.
J-G Pageau, Ottawa Senators — May 5, 2013
Fans who were lucky enough to be in the stands for Ottawa’s 6-1 thumping of the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3 of the 2013 series were also lucky enough to witness the birth of a chant. And the chant was glorious. Ottawa fans inside the Scotiabank Place watched as Pageau scored not once, not twice, but three times in the final two frames. The arena erupted, singing Pageau’s name to the tune of “Ole,” with the Senators faithful knowing full well the tune was the rallying cry of the Canadiens. Unfortunately, the chant hasn’t been heard all that often since in the post-season. Since his hat trick, Pageau has only scored one more goal in 15 playoff outings.
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers — April 13, 2012
One guess which team Couturier’s hat trick came against.
If you guessed the Penguins, you’re correct.
Couturier couldn’t have picked a better team to break out against in the playoffs and few would have expected him to be the star given it was the second playoff game of his career. A tough first period saw the Penguins leading Game 2 of the first-round series 3-1 after the first frame, but roles reversed in the second period with Couturier scoring the game-tying goal with three ticks left in the period. After Pittsburgh scored early in the third to take another lead, Couturier fired back with another game-tying goal and then netted the insurance tally with less than two minutes remaining to seal two straight road victories for the Flyers over the rival Penguins.
Like Pageau, though, Couturier hasn’t had much success since. He has no points in his past 17 playoff games.
Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres — April 24, 2006
Rookie hat tricks have been a near yearly occurrence over the past several seasons, but before Couturier scored his trio of goals, it had been nearly six full years since a rookie Pominville found twine three times in a contest. And if there’s one hat trick on this list that’s somewhat unbelievable, it’s Pominville’s.
Of course, that’s not because Pominville was never a productive scorer. He scored 30 goals three times in his career and has notched at least 20 tallies on seven occasions, hitting 18-plus nine times. Scoring has never been an issue. What makes Pominville’s hat trick unique, though, is that he scored a goal on one in every five shifts during the contest. All told, Pominville skated 7:44 in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Flyers, yet he managed to get three shots and three goals in an 8-2 romp of Philadelphia.
Andy Delmore, Philadelphia Flyers — May 7, 2000
Want to stump your friends? Ask them who the first and only rookie defenseman to score a hat trick in the post-season is. Because while a safe bet would say Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis or Nick Lidstrom, it’s actually Delmore who is the lone rookie rearguard to score thrice in an evening. And, as is seemingly tradition, if a Flyer is making some magic in the post-season, it stands to reason that it has to be agains the Penguins. Delmore’s hat trick is one of those statistical oddities that’s hard to forget once you hear it. Delmore’s playing days are over now, but he can still be found in the ECHL, where he was an assistant with the Toledo Walleyes this past season.
Teemu Selanne, Winnipeg Jets — April 23, 1993
When you score 76 goals in the regular season, what could one possibly do for an encore? Well, a hat trick in your third career post-season game is a good start. In Winnipeg’s first home playoff game of the Selanne era, the ‘Finnish Flash’ had the whiteout crowd jumping with a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, in Game 3. Selanne and the Jets didn’t have much to celebrate the rest of the way, though. Winnipeg dropped Game 4 and eventually lost the series in six games. Three years later, Selanne was headed to the Mighty Ducks and he ended his time with the Jets having played only six playoff games.
Selanne’s second kick at the playoffs didn’t come until 1997. In his first game back to the post-season, he scored two goals and three points in a winning effort against, of all teams, the Coyotes in the first season since the former Winnipeg franchise had relocated to Phoenix.
Pavel Bure, Vancouver Canucks — April 28, 1992
One year before the Selanne hat trick, another rookie with blazing speed and a knack for the net wowed audiences tuning into a first-round series between the Canucks and Jets, and young Bure’s hat trick couldn’t have come at a better time. Heading into Winnipeg trailing 3-2 in the series, Vancouver desperately needed a road win and Bure sparked it. He was all over the ice, scoring three times in the contest, all at even strength, as the Canucks absolutely walloped the Jets, 8-3. Winnipeg managed to shut down Bure in Game 7, though. Trouble is the same couldn’t be said for the rest of the Canucks’ offense. Vancouver took the series with a 5-0 victory in the seventh and deciding game.
Tony Hrkac, St. Louis Blues — April 10, 1988
Bure and Selanne are surefire Hall of Famers, Pominville a consistent scorer and Forsberg arguably one of the best young snipers in the game today. Yet, somehow, it’s Hrkac, who scored 132 goals in his 758-game career and never had a 20-goal season, who has the most impressive single playoff game performance of any freshman on this list.
In a first-round meeting with the Blackhawks, Hrkac scored four goals — more than half of his playoff goal output in his entire career — in Game 4 to put Chicago on the ropes. More impressive yet is that Hrkac managed to score almost every which way. You want even strength goals? Hrkac had two of those. What about the power play? Yep, he notched one with the Blues up a man. And shorthanded? No problem. Hrkac scored one with St. Louis down a man, as well. Of course, a four-goal game wouldn’t be complete without the game-winning goal, so Hrkac tallied that, too.
However, it’s worth noting that there’s a bit of a technicality when it comes to Hrkac’s feat. Yes, he scored four goals, but it was actually his second post-season. You see, he had played three playoff games the year prior, but he remained a rookie because he hadn’t seen a lick of regular season NHL action at that point. The 1987-88 campaign was his freshman season meaning the four-goal game came in what was his seventh playoff game and technically the second post-season of his career.
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