The Calgary Flames are viewed as one of the NHL’s most talented young teams. But nobody knew they were this talented. Hell, no one had seen what happened on Wednesday night in nearly 35 years.
Sam Bennett netted a hat trick in the first period and added a fourth goal in the third period to become the third-youngest player in NHL history to score four times in one game as Calgary throttled the Florida Panthers 6-0 at home.
Jack Hamilton (Toronto, 1943-44) and Bobby Carpenter (Washington, 1981-82) are the only two players to score four times in a game at age 18, Elias Sports told The Canadian Press.
"Wow," Flames coach Bob Hartley exclaimed. "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."
Indeed, Bennett was on fire on this night.
Bennett is the first Flames player to score four goals in a game since Jarome Iginla on Feb. 23, 2003, according to the NHL. At 19 years and six months, he’s the youngest Flame to get a hat trick.
Bennett had not had a goal in 47 days when he scored Monday against San Jose. Immediately after the goal, his first in 19 games, he made a gesture of removing a monkey off his back.
"It’s a great feeling," said Bennett, who has 10 goals this 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."
Florida had been the NHL’s hottest team, going 12-0-1 since losing in regulation to Boston on Dec. 12. Playing their fifth game in nine days, the Panthers ran out of gas and were outshot 36-15.
Bennett even provided some dramatics for the home crowd as he was sitting on three goals with less than half a minute left to play.
But then Bennett deked the puck between his own legs to work around a defender, then poked a backhand past Al Montoya with 25 seconds left in the game.
He wasted little time scoring in this one, one-timing a set-up from Jiri Hudler past Roberto Luongo just 56 seconds in.
Mikael Backlund centered the line between Bennett and Hudler and was impressed by how Bennett stayed positive during his goal-less stretch.
"He still played really well during his slump. For a young player, it’s easy to just fade away. but he was being physical, was still making plays and was trying to score and it just didn’t come," Backlund said.
Johnny Gaudreau and Mason Raymond also scored, and Jonas Hiller made 15 saves.
"It’s embarrassing," Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau said. "Coming up here after a pretty good streak and being beat 6-0? It’s not what we were hoping for. We didn’t have a good start at all, we weren’t ready, and they took advantage of us."
This was Hiller’s first appearance since Dec. 12. He entered the night with an ugly .862 save percentage.
Gaudreau scored his 19th goal 5:52 into the game after his attempted centering pass deflected off a Panthers defender.
Bennett got his second with 7:59 left in the first when the puck slid under Luongo following Bennett’s failed deke attempt.
Bennett completed his first NHL hat trick with 2:59 left when he backhanded the rebound from Deryk Engelland’s shot under the crossbar to make it 4-0.
Luongo, replaced by Montoya to start the second period, yielded four goals on 15 shots.
Raymond steered a pass from David Jones past Montoya with 6:40 left in the second period.
Notes: Florida coach Gerard Gallant missed the game after his mother died. Assistant coach Mike Kelly filled in. … Panthers D Aaron Ekblad (concussion) missed his second game. … Hudler (groin) returned after missing three games while Calgary C Joe Colborne was a healthy scratch. … Florida’s Jaromir Jagr and Aleksander Barkov both had five-game point streaks snapped.