I've read this book before. 6-3 game against the Avalanche, natural hat trick, Penguins lose. Wait, no, that part of the script is different. Penguins win this time. The rest, though ... just like Wednesday in Denver.
This time, it wasn't Sidney Crosby screaming in my direction as he let out the tension of everything that's gone wrong in 2018.
This time, it was Patric Hornqvist, raising his arms as he often does after a big goal, gliding toward the fans in the corner who would soon cover the ice in a storm of free hats.
Dejan Kovacevic and I thought that Crosby's trio came hastily. Hornqvist, though ... Hornqvist set a new franchise record by going from first to third in 2:47. That's ... fast.
And, as exciting as a 2:47 natural hat trick is on its own, a hat giveaway night makes it unbelievably more so. Yes, every fan in attendance received a hat when they entered the arena Tuesday night and, as predicted by our Taylor Haase, it ended up being a perfect night for someone to "score three."
The cleanup was a little out of control, but the ice crew removed the hats rather efficiently with the help of wagons, buckets and bags. The best part of that cleaning sequence was the way a few members of the crew would interact with fans around the rink.
Just to my left, a pair of fans would jump up and down, beers in hand, and cheer on a particular member of the team. When the hats were removed and it was time to head back off toward the zamboni door, that ice crew member took a celebratory leap into the glass sending a ripple through the boards as if he scored the hat trick himself.
Up at the top of this View from Ice Level, I've set it up to look through my best images of Hornqvist, his goals, the celebration and the cleanup. So, flip through those, and we'll get to the rest. The next two 'views' aren't quite as happy for those involved.
NOT SO HOMECOMING
Ian Cole had his turn on the big screen Tuesday as he was honored for his role in the back-to-back Stanley Cup championship runs. Cole, despite a Corsi for percentage of 61.7, was on the ice for four of the Penguins' six goals and only a single tally for his Avalanche.
Not the dream return.
His ovation came at the first media time out, just as the others do. That time out comes during the first stoppage of play at least 6:00 into the first. Evgeni Malkin netted his goal at 6:52. And, yes, Cole was on the ice.
He was on the bench when the video played. But Cole then jumped the boards, surrounded by teammates' stick taps, to acknowledge his former fans and was sent to the defensive zone in the wake of his ovation.
To recap: Video, ovation, Cole takes ice, Malkin scores. Like I said, not the dream return. The image above is just after a goal was scored and Cole watched it on the big screen as a fan behind the Avalanche bench expressed his feelings for the former Penguin.
More than 5:00 remaining in the game, down three goals, four-on-four hockey and the Avalanche pulled Semyon Varlamov.
The murmurs around my shooting position were what you'd expect: "Too early. Here comes another goal." Yadda, yadda.
It wasn't too early. In fact, the Penguins only came close to scoring on the empty cage via an icing call that saw the puck slide inches from the right post. The next closest? Bryan Rust, who I'd imagine hasn't even been able to score at home on NHL 19.
Rust came flying down the right side of the ice, puck ahead of him, entered the Avalanche zone and was tripped by Nathan MacKinnon. The penalty effectively ended the Avalanche's slim chances as Varlamov re-took his crease.
That action, securing the Penguins' win, should be a happy moment for Rust. It wasn't.
Rust raised an arm to a referee, appealed for a goal to be awarded claiming he had a clean shot at the empty net and had his opportunity ruined by MacKinnon. If it was a cleaner break, he likely would have been given the goal, but with a defender between the penalty and the cage, Rust's appeal was denied.
So, Rust remained on the ice where he was sent by MacKinnon, still unable to find the back of the net. He stayed on his knees staring blankly as if someone had just spoiled the magic of Christmas and he could no longer "hear the bells."
Soon enough, a goal will come ... and then another. Maybe then Rust will be able to again appreciate securing a win for his team.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
[caption id="attachment_732288" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Penguins vs. Avalanche, PPG Paints Arena, Dec. 4, 2018 - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]