Sam Bennett youngest Flame with 4-goal game

Calgary forward Sam Bennett beat Florida goalie Roberto Luongo three times in the first period Wednesday night to become the youngest Flame to score a hat trick at 19 years, six months, before beating Panthers backup Al Montoya with 25 seconds left in regulation.

19-year-old posts 1st-period hat trick, adds 3rd-period marker

Calgary rookie forward Sam Bennett celebrates his third goal of the first period against the visiting Panthers on Wednesday night. At 19 years, six months, he became the youngest Flame to score a hat trick. Bennett scored his fourth of the night with 25 seconds left in regulation. He entered the game with just one goal in his previous 19 starts and was nearly made a healthy scratch by head coach Bob Hartley a few weeks ago. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The odds certainly weren't in Sam Bennett's favour.

With one goal in his previous 19 starts, the Calgary Flames rookie was set to face the visiting Florida Panthers, who entered Wednesday night's tilt having won 12 of their past 13 outings and had only allowed three goals in a game twice since Dec. 15.

And starting in goal for Florida was Roberto Luongo, who boasted a .953 save percentage during a recent personal-best nine-game win streak and sported a 2.08 goals-against average and .930 save percentage on the season.

Undaunted, Bennett proceeded to score three times in 17 minutes one second against Luongo for his first multi-goal performance in the NHL, becoming the youngest Flame to score a hat trick at 19 years, six months.

He added his fourth goal of the night with 25 seconds left in regulation, pushing the puck between defenceman Alex Petrovic's feet and roofing a backhand by netminder Al Montoya, who replaced Luongo to start the second period.

"It's a great feeling," said Bennett, up to 10 goals on the season. "It's big for my confidence. I knew I felt confident playing in this league and now I think I took another step in the right direction."

Former Flames captain Jarome Iginla was the last Calgary player to score four times in a game on Feb. 23, 2003 in a 4-2 victory over the-then Phoenix Coyotes.

Many in Wednesday's crowd of 18,702 at the Saddledome had yet to settle in their seats when Bennett wristed a Jiri Hudler pass by Luongo 56 seconds after the opening faceoff.

After Johnny Gaudreau made it 2-0, Bennett scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season five minutes apart in his 41st game of the season.

"Wow," exclaimed Flames coach Bob Hartley. "Right from the start of the game, he was flying out there. Very happy for him, a great performance, he played well. Here's a young kid that was working so hard, it's nice to see that he's getting rewarded."

Bennett, like many NHL rookies, has experienced some ups and downs as far as reaching the scoresheet. The Flames' fourth overall pick in 2014 mustered just one assist in his first eight games but then struck for four goals and 10 points in the first two weeks of November before Calgary head coach Bob Hartley toyed with the idea of making Bennett a healthy scratch in December but didn't act.

The native of Holland Landing, Ont., made his NHL debut in Calgary's final regular-season game of the 2014-15 campaign and went on to score three goals and four points in 11 playoff contests.

With files from The Canadian Press


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