Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flyers All-Time Unlikeliest Hat Tricks

Last season, the Philadelphia Flyers rewarded their fans with only one instance of a host player scoring at least three times in one game.

Wayne Simmonds beat Henrik Lundqvist three times, helping the Orange and Black stay alive in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series back on April 29, igniting a 5- Game 6 victory.

That marked the first time any Flyer had lit the lamp three times in Philadelphia since the now departed Scott Hartnell (6 hat tricks) did so in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Bruins on January 22, 2012.

A significant number of the club's 195 trifectas were produced by the franchise's best shooters: MacLeish, Leach, Barber, Kerr, Poulin, Lindros, LeClair, Primeau, Gagne, Briere, Carter, Richards, Giroux and Voracek. However, there have been some rare occasions, both in the regular season and playoffs, where unheralded players have stepped up and embarrassed opposing goaltenders on career nights.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most unlikely goal-drenching performances in Flyers history:

10. Alexandre Daigle -- March 14, 1998 Flyers 6, Red Wings 1: The Man from Hollywood managed just 12 goals in 68 games over parts of two seasons with Philadelphia in the late 90s, but he put together one week which briefly displayed the flashes of brilliance which enticed the Ottawa Senators to pick him first overall in the 1993 draft.

After failing to light the lamp in his first 15 games here, Daigle exploded during a long homestand. For starters, he tallied a highlight-reel goal in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of a national audience, added another goal against the Devils in a tie two nights later, and to end it,  punctured the defense and goaltending of the defending champion Detroit Red Wings on home ice in  Saturday matinee. Two of the goals were deflections and the third a one-timer from the left wing.

9. Sean Couturier -- April 13, 2012 Flyers 8, Penguins 5 Game 2 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Who could have thought that a 19-year-old kid, a raw rookie, would announce his arrival in the NHL during his second career playoff contest? Hard to think even Couturier himself would have dreamed up this scenario.

Leading 1-0 in the best-of-seven series, and facing another 3-1 in-game deficit, the Flyers rallied to win and steal the momentum against their cross-state rivals heading home with a second straight head-scratching victory. Every one of his goals were crucial, timely tallies. On the first, he remained deep in the Penguins zone and slammed home a rebound with less than three seconds to play in the second period, forging a 4-4 deadlock. Only 17 seconds after Pittsburgh moved ahead early in the third, he intercepted a pass and scored for a 5-5 game, then finished off a pass from Claude Giroux to make it 7-5 with 1:49 to go.

With that effort, Couturier joined Giroux and seven other members of the Orange and Black to record a playoff hat trick before getting one in the regular season.

8.  Andy Delmore -- May 7, 2000 Flyers 6, Penguins 3 Game 5 Eastern Conference Semifinals: What makes Delmore's feat all the more impressive, is that if it weren't for his OT winner in Game 3 at Pittsburgh five days earlier, the Flyers may not have progressed this far so he could unleash his One Shining Moment in front of the home crowd which gave the Orange and Black a 3-2 series edge.

A defenseman whose offensive upside superseded his defensive skills in an era where that wasn't welcome in Philadelphia or many other places, Delmore scored seven times and added 15 assists in 92 games over parts of three seasons here. Yet, in the 2000 playoffs, for a club which had to make do without Eric Lindros for all but two games, Delmore was one of a half-dozen heroes who stepped out of obscurity. He led all Philly defensemen that postseason with five goals -- all in the Pens series -- and posted the club's first and only playoff hat trick by a blueliner.

7.  Derrick Smith -- December 10, 1988 Flyers 6, Blackhawks 4: For a guy who once went half a season without an assist early in his pro career, and who tallied only 80 times in 494 appearances with the Flyers over seven seasons, it was quite a shock that Smith was the one who burned Chicago on this Saturday afternoon at the Spectrum.

In Blackhawks head coach Mike Keenan's first game against the Flyers since his firing the previous May, Smith gave the hosts leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in a five-goal second period, then hit the clincher behind Darren Pang with 1:34 left in regulation to stave off a late visitors' comeback. Prior to that game, Smith only posted a single multi-goal effort, and didn't repeat the feat again after that point. Unable to find playing time under Paul Holmgren, he was eventually claimed off waivers by the North Stars shortly into the 1991-92 season.

6.  Trent Klatt -- March 1, 1997 Flyers 5, Bruins 5: Acquired in December of 1995 from the Dallas Stars for the better-scoring Brent Fedyk, Klatt responded in typical grinder fashion, coming up with a paltry three goals in the remaining 49 games he played for Terry Murry the remainder of the season.

Once paired up with fellow Minnesotans Shjon Podein and Joel Otto on the best third line the franchise ever produced, he turned into a veritable scoring machine. With 17 goals in 58 games up to that point, and with the fate of a WIP caller's free dinner from midday yakker Mike Missanelli (who bet that Klatt wouldn't make it to 20 after hitting 15 in mid-February) hanging in the balance, Klatt decided to get 'em all in one try. He scored twice in a three-goal opening period, then capped his milestone first NHL hat trick on a short-handed goal with 8:44 left.

Lost in the afterglow, was that the Bruins scored twice in a 52-second span in the final 1:17 just to get to overtime. Klatt set a career-best with 24 goals in 1996-97, then dipped to 14 the next year, and only went as high as 17, in his final season, with Vancouver in 2003-04.

5.  Bill Lesuk -- January 9, 1972 Flyers 10, Golden Seals 3: A native of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Lesuk spent a season and a half with Philly in a time when goals were at an absolute premium. With such offensive-minded players like Gary Dornhoefer, Rick MacLeish and Bobby Clarke on the roster, it was the diminutive 25-year-old who set the pace. He recorded 24 goals over 123 games before being shipped to Los Angeles in a deal which netted Cowboy Flett and Ross Lonsberry, and didn't have too many highlight-level moments for a team struggling to remain in the playoff race.

California obliged, at least once. Lesuk's first goal gave the hosts a 5-2 lead late in the second period, and then he scored the club's eighth and landmark 10th goals of the contest in the final six minutes of the third. After 4 1/2 years in the NHL, the Flyers finally hit double digits on the scoreboard with 2:22 left in that contest. Nineteen days later, Lesuk was on his way to the West Coast. He only scored 20 more goals in the NHL over 215 appearances.

4.  Rosaire Paiement -- April 13, 1968 Flyers 6, Blues 1 Game 5 Quarterfinals: If hockey fans over the age of 35 recognize that last name, it is familiar. He's Wilf Paiement's older brother, and the man who holds the distinction of recording the Flyers franchise's first-ever playoff hat trick. Paiement's output against Hall-of-Fame goaltender Glenn Hall represented 75 percent of his entire regular-season totals with the expansion club (4 goals in 43 games over parts of three seasons).

Trailing 3-1 in the series and facing elimination on home ice, Paiement turned up the heat for the first and only time in his career. He gave the O&B a 2-0 lead at even strength in the first period, then sandwiched two more strikes in a 2:58 span in the third period around St. Louis' lone tally against Bernie Parent. What's even more bizarre, is that Paiement didn't even dress for the entire series, appearing in just three contests, the first of which was his career night, and the last of which was the series-ending 3-1 home loss in Game 7.

The best thing the club ever got from Paiement was his value in trade, to Boston in 1970 for MacLeish.

3.  Jiri Dopita -- January 8, 2002 Flyers 7, Thrashers 4: Who can forget "the best player in the world not in the NHL?" If not for his North American career-defining night at the First Union Center, we'd have done that already.

Armed with just two goals over 25 appearances in the Flying P, Dopita showed no signs of adjusting to a foreign land and a different type of game from the one which allowed him to be a 30-goal scorer in the Czech Extraliga. Yet, countryman Milan Hnilicka and Damian Rhodes felt the full brunt of Dopita's pent-up wrath in a victory which helped push Philadelphia into first place in the Atlantic Division.

His first strike gave the hosts a 3-1 edge after one period. The next two in the following stanza, in a stretch of 2:40 which extended the advantage to 5-2. The fourth was a power-play marker near the midway point of the third period, which vaulted the laconic 33-year-old into unique company. Dopita's head coach, Bill Barber, only registered as many as four goals once in a Hall-of-Fame career.

"I'm just happy to help," said a relieved Dopita after the game had finished. "It's been hard for me...It's different here than the European game. There are more checks here."

Dopita only hit the net five more times in his final 26 games with the Flyers, then spent the next season in Edmonton and scoring once in 21 games. 

2.  Tony Horacek -- December 30, 1989 Flyers 6, Kings 3: There's no doubt that this city's identity as far as a hockey team and its fans are concerned is built around the guys who battle in the corners for the puck and use their fists to keep the peace. Every once in a blue moon, those enforcers do something wonderful and unexpected.

Dave Schultz set a still-standing, and probably never-to-be-broken single-season record with 472 penalty minutes in 1975, but he also registered two hat tricks seven days apart, netted an overtime series-winning playoff marker and scored 20 goals once in his career. Ed Hospodar scored two goals in a game where the Flyers desperately tried to rally from a 5-1 deficit in an attempt to win a 14th straight game. Rick Tocchet defied the odds and extended his career by going from a scrapper to a scorer.

But Horacek, a 1985 seventh-round pick and fourth-line guy on one of the worst teams in club history, wasn't expected to do much of anything except protect the guys expected to put the puck in the net. He made his NHL debut on October 8, 1989 in a loss at Winnipeg, and scored two goals through 32 games while accruing 93 PIM until that fateful night at the Forum in Inglewood.

The rookie puncher put Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille to shame, netting his first of the night just 1:42 on a one-timer in the slot off a Pelle Eklund pass. He two more in an 8 1/2-minute span in the second period, the last giving Philly a 5-1 advantage. Both were within 10 feet of the net, the last coming with Marty McSorley draped on his back.

The Vancouver native never came close to equaling the feat. He failed to score in the remaining 15 games of the 1989-90 season, then scored only four more times in 68 games until he was swapped to Chicago for Ryan McGill in February of '92. Horacek remains the last player in team history whose primary job was enforcement to score three times in one game.

Courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers
1.  Tom Bladon -- December 11, 1977 Flyers 11, Barons 1: Take inventory of the greatest offensive defensemen in NHL history: Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, Mark Howe, Brian Leetch, Nick Lidstrom.

Only one of those (Coffey) ever reached the NHL record books with an eight-point night, and he had the added advantage of helping fuel the greatest offense in league history.

Bladon did manage to hit double digits in goals for five of his six seasons in Philadelphia, but he wasn't a puck-moving dynamo like the man who succeeded him on the blueline, Bob Dailey, or sure-handed in his own end of the ice. He'd only recorded one multi-goal effort in his career prior to the night in question.

If you had to pick a team where a random Flyer could test the limits of history, the Cleveland Barons would be a great guess. The former Seals obliged, letting Philadelphia tie a season high for goals scored and accumulate a plus-34 shot differential. Bladon simply had an out-of-body experience as far as statistics were concerned. He scored on three slapshots and a wrister, and set up four more Flyer goals to break Orr's then-record for points by a defenseman, and do something at the time which only Rocket Richard, Darryl Sittler and Bert Olmstead accomplished.

As it stands, Bladon is the only Flyers defenseman to record four goals in one outing, and one of just three franchise backliners to record a hat trick either in the regular season or the playoffs (Steve Duchesne, December 1991, Delmore listed above).

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