When Alexander Ovechkin was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2004, he was expected to be a generational talent, much like NHL greats Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky. And while both of those players were adept at scoring goals and had multiple multi-goal games. neither accomplished what Ovechkin has done through the first two games of the 2017-18 season, the 100th season in league history.
On October 5, 2017, on Opening Night in Ottawa, Ovechkin scored a hat trick during the third period of the Capitals’ game against the Senators. He followed that up in the Caps’ home opener on October 7, with a hat trick in the first period against the Montreal Canadiens. He added an additional goal towards the end of the second period for good measure, capping an impressive and historic win for the Capitals. Opening the season with hat tricks in two consecutive games, as Ovechkin has done, has not been done since 1917-18, the inaugural season of the NHL. That year, Ottawa Senators (the first inception of the team) left wing Cy Denneny, Montreal Canadiens center Joe Malone, and Toronto Arenas (now the Maple Leafs) Reg Noble, all accomplished the same feat. Since then, it had not been done until Ovechkin did so to start this season.
The time period in which those players accomplished the feat was an era in which the game was played much differently than it is today. The regular season that year consisted of only 20 games, during which there was a champion for the first half of the season and a champion for the second half of the season, with the winner of the playoff series between the first and second half champions playing the winner of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) for the Stanley Cup. The top players in the league also scored at higher rates than they do today, with players averaging more than one goal per game, albeit in a much shorter season than today’s rigorous 82-game campaign.
Cy Denneny, as mentioned above, scored his consecutive hat tricks for the original Ottawa Senators. His streak began by scoring multiple goals in each of the first four games of the season which set an NHL record, and was not matched until 2013, when then-San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau accomplished the feat. For the season, Denneny ended up scoring 36 goals and recording 10 assists in 20 games played. Denneny was one of the top scorers in the NHL from 1917 through 1925. During his career, he scored six goals in one game. He played 11 seasons with the Senators and one season with the Boston Bruins, and at the time of his retirement, he was the NHL career leader in scoring. As a result, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959. In his 12-year career, Denneny averaged 1.02 points per game in his career and in 25 games played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he recorded 18 points.
As mentioned above, Joe Malone recorded his back-to-back hat tricks with the Montreal Canadiens. That year, he played on a line with Newsy Lalonde and Didier Pitre, which was one of the most powerful forward lines in NHL history. While normally a center, he shifted to left wing to accommodate Lalonde. He was the league’s scoring leader that year with 44 goals in 20 games played. He scored at least one goal (and a total of 35 goals) in his first 14 NHL games to set the record for the longest goal-scoring streak to begin an NHL career, a streak that still stands as the second-longest goal-scoring streak in NHL history. He also scored hat tricks in three consecutive games that season. The only other player in NHL history who has had three games with consecutive hat tricks was New York Islanders legend Mike Bossy. During the 1919-1920 season, Malone scored seven goals in a single game, setting an all-time record that still stands today. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950.
Reg Noble, as mentioned above, scored his hat trick for the Toronto Arenas. He finished the season with 30 goals and 10 assists in 20 games for the season. His team ended up winning the NHL Championship and beat the Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final that year. He remained with Toronto until 1924, when he was traded to the Montreal Maroons. He was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 1962. He was also the last active NHL player from both the NHL’s inaugural season and the 1910’s.
The only person besides Joe Malone with three consecutive games with hat tricks was Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders who accomplished the feat during the 1980-1981 season. Bossy scored three goals in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on November 8, 1980, which the Islanders won 7-3. He followed that performance up on November 11 by scoring four goals in a game against the Minnesota North Stars, a game which ended in a 6-6 tie.
Hat Tricks in Consecutive Periods
Other players who have had three goals in a single period in two consecutive hockey games included forward Rick Martin and Darryl Sittler. Martin, who played for the Buffalo Sabres, scored three goals against the Capitals on October 19, 1975, and then scored three against the New York Rangers on October 22. Sittler, who was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, accomplished his feat in March 1980. On March 2, Sittler scored three goals and also contributed three assists against the Detroit Red Wings. He followed that up by scoring three goals and having one assist against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 5.
Most Recent Consecutive Hat Tricks
The most recent player to score hat tricks in two consecutive games, prior to Ovechkin’s most recent feat, was former Capitals prospect Filip Forsberg, who achieved his hat tricks against the Calgary Flames on February 21, 2017, and then against the Colorado Avalanche two days later.
Ovechkin is the active leader among NHL players in hat tricks with 19, while Gretzky is the all-time leader with 50 hat tricks in his career.
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By Diane Doyle