Hornqvist’s first hat trick helps in razing Arizona
February 29, 2016 11:22 PM
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save on Coyotes forward Max Domi in the third period Monday at Consol Energy Center.
Patric Hornqvist is congratulated after getting a hat trick against the Coyotes Monday at Consol Energy Center. The line of Hornqvist, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz had a big night in the Penguins’ 6-0 win.
Bryan Rust congratulates teammate Matt Cullen on his goal against the Coyotes in the third period.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins — and just about every other NHL club — will tell you that there are no easy games at this level, and that’s a fair point. But occasionally there are games against teams that have lost their previous five.
Teams that trade one of their top point-producers a few hours before game time.
Teams that have played most of the season without their No. 1 goalie.
Teams that have about as much chance of winning the World Series as they do of qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Teams like the Arizona Coyotes.
Given all of that, it was entirely plausible, almost predictable, that the Penguins would beat the Coyotes, 6-0, Monday night at Consol Energy Center.
And it was at least as encouraging for them that they took full advantage of an opportunity to claim a couple of points against a decidedly overmatched opponent.
On this evening, at least, the very notion of parity was a parody.
“We got a good start,” right winger Patrick Hornqvist said. “And it led into a good game.”
Especially for Hornqvist, who recorded his first hat trick in 488 career games.
“Obviously, it feels great to get that first out of the way,” he said.
Hornqvist, who also had an assist, was the Penguins’ most productive forward, but linemates Sidney Crosby, who had three assists, and Chris Kunitz, who scored a goal and set up another, showed up on the scoresheet a lot, too.
Defenseman Kris Letang chipped in with a goal and an assist, too, while goalie Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 30 shots to record his fifth shutout this season.
Coach Mike Sullivan declined to say whether Fleury or Matt Murray will start when the Penguins visit Washington tonight, although Murray is the favorite.
Sullivan deployed the Kunitz-Crosby-Hornqvist line to start the game, and it immediately took the play to Arizona.
“The first line set the tone from the first shift,” center Matt Cullen said. “They were all over them, had a couple of good [scoring] opportunities on that first shift.”
Hornqvist gave the Penguins the only goal they would need a few minutes later, when he backhanded a loose puck in the crease past Arizona goalie Louis Domingue.
Before the evening ended, Hornqvist scored two more goals from relatively close to the crease, while Kunitz got one on a net-front deflection.
“A couple of [Hornqvist’s] goals are right outside the crease, as usual,” Crosby said. “[Kunitz] is there, the tip. … No secret, that’s where you need to go to score goals and guys did a good job of that.”
The Coyotes, meanwhile, have returned home from a five-game road trip with nothing to show except a little meal money and some dirty laundry.
Oh, and a scathing evaluation from coach Dave Tippett.
“We didn’t play very well, from the goaltender out,” he said.
The Penguins, who have won consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 6-8, did.
They are 32-21-8 and continue to hold the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They will have an opportunity to add to that edge when they visit the Verizon Center tonight, but will have to outplay a Capitals team perched comfortably atop the overall standings.
“This is one of the very top teams in the league, and they’re playing really well,” said Cullen, who scored the Penguins’ final goal. “It’s going to be a huge challenge for us.
“We’ve been playing some really good hockey and feel pretty good about our game right now.”
Dave Molinari: dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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