Brock Boeser's 1st-career hat trick lifts Canucks over Penguins
Vancouver's Bo Horvat also strong with 4-point game
As the media descended on Brock Boeser in the Vancouver Canucks locker-room following his first NHL hat trick, goalie Jacob Markstrom sat a few stalls away teasing the young winger.
The rookie had the puck on his stick in the dying seconds of Saturday's 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins with a chance to score his fourth into a empty net.
Boeser instead passed to defenceman Christopher Tanev, who had his shot blocked to deny Markstrom an assist.
"He was chirping me a little bit," the soft-spoken Minnesota native said with a smile. "He still would have got an assist if it had been a little cleaner pass."
It might have been Boeser's only mistake of the night.
The 20-year-old scored three times to go along with an assist, while linemates Bo Horvat (one goal, three assists) and Sven Baertschi (three assists) also had impressive performances against the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions in helping Vancouver snap a two-game slide.
"It's obviously truly a special one, to score three goals in a game like that," said Boeser. "But it's about our team game.
"I thought our team got better as the game went on."
Boeser, who leads the Canucks in scoring with five goals and eight assists, now has 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 19 career games after playing nine times at the tail end of last season.
"He was phenomenal," said Horvat. "He played a heck of a game."
Markstrom made 37 saves as the Canucks (7-4-2) rebounded after scoring just one combined goal in those consecutive home losses.
"We were hurting for [offence]," said Horvat. "To finally get rewarded for our chances tonight felt great."
Jake Guentzel and Greg McKegg replied for Pittsburgh (8-6-2), which got 17 stops from Matt Murray.
The Penguins had a number of great looks on Markstrom, but were unable to find the range in concluding their five-game road trip 1-3-1 with just eight goals scored.
"We didn't give up a significant amount of scoring chances," said Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan. "We generated a fair amount of scoring chances. We're a little bit snake bitten."
After the Penguins tied the game 2-2 at 4:49 of the third period when McKegg tipped home his second of the season and Patric Hornqvist then hit the post to cap a furious onslaught, Boeser scored his third of the night and fifth of the year just 1:07 later, taking a feed from Horvat and ripping a shot against the grain on Murray.
"It was a big goal," said Vancouver head coach Travis Green. "We were under siege. Like a championship team does, they came after us hard.
"When you see them live and in person you really understand how they won two Cups."
Fans at Rogers Arena littered the ice with hats to salute Boeser, but there would be some nervy moments — including a great pad save by Markstrom on Phil Kessel — before Horvat sealed the result with his fifth upstairs on Murray with 3:31 to play.
"They are a fast team," said Markstrom. "They play really aggressive, they come at you with two or three guys and the defence stand up at all times."
Tied 1-1 after a spirited first, Boeser scored his second at 7:14 of the middle period off a good Canucks cycle. Horvat fed a no-look pass from the corner in front to Baertschi, who kicked the puck to his stick and over to Boeser at the side of the net, where he slide his shot past a down-and-out-Murray.
Markstrom, who was bailed out by Tanev with the puck sitting on his goal line on the first shift of the game, returned the favour earlier in the second with the score still tied when he stopped Kessel with his glove after a turnover.
Murray earned a shutout in his only two previous starts against the Canucks, including a 27-save performance in a 3-0 victory in Vancouver last March, and made a nice glove save of his own later in the period off Jake Virtanen, but could do nothing on Boeser's go-ahead effort.
The Penguins opened the scoring on the power play 2:53 into the first to cap frenetic start that saw great chances at both ends.
Crosby tapped a no-look touch pass between his own legs to Kessel, who in turn quickly fed a wide open Guentzel at the side of the net for his fourth.
Boeser, who was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season, evened things at 7:07 when he evaded Kris Letang before using a nice backhand move on Murray for what would be his first of three on a memorable night.
"It's special being my first hat trick," he said. "But just against the Stanley Cup champions ... it makes it a little more special."
Markstrom got across to stone Sheary at the side of the net later in the period.