There are moments in a player's career that are hard to forget, and Mark Scheifele's big Saturday night will surely be one he will always remember.
Scheifele's first career hat trick — including the winner — elevated the Winnipeg Jets over the Montreal Canadiens 4-2.
"Scoring a hat trick against the Montreal Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada, it's kind of one of those things that you dream of as a kid so I'm definitely pretty jacked up right now," said Scheifele. "It's unbelievable. It's just something that you dream about."
Scheifele's empty-netter late in the third completed the hat trick after giving the Jets 1-0 and 3-2 leads and snapping Winnipeg's (27-32-5) six-game home winless streak. Rookie Andrew Copp scored his third goal of the season.
Alex Galchenyuk scored twice for Montreal (30-30-6) to bring his season total to a career-high 21. The Canadiens drop their fourth straight game to finish their current western road swing winless.
Inside the game's final two minutes — and with Canadiens' goaltender Mike Condon pulled for the extra-attacker soon afterward — Scheifele stepped on the ice eyeing his third goal of the game.
"I was a little skeptical," Scheifele said of the race to the puck with Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban inside Montreal's zone. "I thought I had a good head of steam going in and [Subban] kind of took a good route. At first I thought he might have got to it. It was depending on the bounce. I just kind of tried to get inside positioning on him and I think he was definitely pretty tired.
"He probably played the last four minutes of that game so I think I had a little bit of an edge over him."
Stole the puck
In a similar late-shift scenario for Subban, Scheifele opened the scoring 4:10 in the second period by catching Subban at the end of a 2:19 power-play shift. Inside the Montreal zone, Scheifele stole the puck from Subban and broke in all alone and beat Condon with a quick backhand finish.
The 22-year-old Scheifele adds to his career-high season goal total with his 18th, 19th, and 20th of the season. Serving as Winnipeg's No. 1 centre since Bryan Little fractured a vertebrae on Feb. 18, Scheifele has eight goals his last eight games, adding five assists in that span.
Winnipeg's lineup featured four freshman skaters, while the Canadiens also iced a handful.
"Other than the result, I have to look at the performance of the young players. We've got nine rookies and even a guy like [Galchenyuk] we pay attention to him," said Montreal head coach Michel Therrien. "The result's not there, but there's a lot of good things we see from those kids."
Copp scored his second goal in his last three games to put his season total at three.
"I think it's confidence," said Copp, who snapped a 35-game goal drought on Tuesday night. "Confidence with the puck, and stuff starts to go in as soon as you're on the puck and you're doing all the right things when you're away from it, too."
Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec stopped 26-of-28 shots for his seventh win of the season after missing nearly three months with a knee injury, while Montreal's Condon knocked away 25 of the 28 he faced.
The Canadiens, winless to complete their three-game road trip and victorious in just one of their last 10 on the road, now head home for a four-game homestand. The Jets complete their final back-to-back of the season as they host the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night.