Those who say offense has been completely eliminated from the game of hockey need to look no further than the latest matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators.
While scoring is down, and heading towards a record-setting pace of goal-scoring deficiency, both the Penguins and Senators combined for a season-high 13 goals, as Pittsburgh escaped with an 8-5 win.
For the Penguins, it is certainly a good sign of the team’s depth when they can put eight goals on the board, and captain Sidney Crosby only registered a lone point – his league-leading 17th goal.
Carrying a lot of the offensive weight was Bryan Rust, who registered his first career hat trick at the NHL level. The 24-year-old former Notre Dame Fighting Irish entered the game with three goals – one behind his career high – and left with sixth, setting a new season best and is one point shy of topping that.
Rust opened and closed out the scoring in the 13 goal slugfest, one of which came on a penalty shot.
Here is a video recap and breakdown of Rust’s big night against the Senators;
The Senators attempted to clear the puck up the ice along the boards, with Kris Letang keeping it in. He gives it to Evgeni Malkin who cuts across the middle of the ice and instantly draws in all four Senators in the area.
Rust does as any smart hockey player would do while playing with Malkin, head straight to the net with his stick on the ground. Malkin was shaken up on the play but finished the game.
That shows how fundamentally easy it to play with Malkin at times. He demands so much attention when he has the puck on the stick, allowing Rust to charge the net completely untouched.
The Penguins had already scored six goals mid-way through the third period, Rust only having one of them. Over the span of the last ten minutes, Rust turned this game into just another he scored in, to one he will never forget.
Awarded a penalty shot, Rust gave a great shoulder fake on the forehand, before turning over to the backhand and roofing it over Craig Anderson.
Attempting a late comeback, the Senators pull their goalie for an extra attacker. It doesn’t work.
After Brian Dumoulin gets the puck on the far boards, Rust takes off on the other side of the ice. Chris Kunitz gets the puck and flips a perfect pass that drops right in front of the ice and allows Rust to finish off the hat trick.
Anytime a player gets a hat trick, it is a special achievement and celebrated so when on home ice. With how much scoring is down of late, it makes getting all three goals needed that much harder.
It doesn’t make Rust’s feat any less impressive, but through his teammates and situations, his hat trick came almost as easy as they come.