A single hat flew to the ice as seasoned Vancouver Canucks centre Brandon Sutter scored the first hat trick of his NHL career on Monday.
In an arena devoid of fans, Sutter had only his teammates to celebrate his three-goal night with, but the lack of noise didn’t dull the moment.
“It feels pretty good. You never know when you’re going to get one, if you’re going to get one,” he said after Vancouver collected a tidy 7-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
“It only took me 13 years.”
The head gear on the ice belonged to goalie Braden Holtby, who’d been sitting on the bench. Canucks captain Bo Horvat added a giant hug to the hat trick celebration.
Sutter, 31, has 735 NHL games under his belt but is known more for killing penalties than scoring highlight-reel-worthy goals. Over 12 seasons in the league, he’s amassed 278 points (144 goals, 134 assists).
“Any time someone scores a hat trick, it’s always a good feeling as a coach for the player,” said Canucks coach Travis Green. “But obviously in this scenario, a guys that doesn’t get a lot of recognition for offence, you feel good for Sutts.”
Sutter’s prettiest goal of the night came 9:31 into the first period when he flicked a diving backhand in past Senators netminder Matt Murray.
He added a short-handed marker near the end of the second frame.
Monday’s victory was a much-needed win for the Canucks (3-5-0), which had not won in regulation since its season opener on Jan. 13.
“I just like that we stuck with our game. We didn’t waver. Sometimes if you get up 3-1, 4-1, sometimes you can kind of take your foot off the gas,” Green said. “We just needed to get a win, whether it was 2-1, 1-0, 3-2. And more importantly, just play a real solid game for 60 minutes and I thought we accomplished that.”
Tanner Pearson had a goal and an assist for the home team, while Tyler Motte, Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi also scored. Horvat tallied two assists.
Thatcher Demko had 34 saves and collected his first win of the season for the Canucks.
“I thought our team defence was great tonight,” he said. “When you’re forechecking well and you’re reloading hard and guys are getting back through the middle, those are the things that kind of add up and deter the other team from creating those scoring chances.”
Senators coach D.J. Smith was less than impressed with his group’s performance.
Ottawa failed to capitalize on any of its five power plays, and recorded nine giveaways.
“Every bad mistake ended up in your net and it’s by some guys who have been in the league and should be better and it’s by some young guys as well,” he said. “So you’ve got to learn from and realize how good the National Hockey League is and how hard you have to work every shift if you want to win.
“And right now there’s some guys that maybe are taking it for granted, being in the National Hockey League, and when you turn it over, it ends up in your net sometimes so we’ve got to be better.”
Ottawa’s (1-4-1) lone marker came from Austin Watson midway through the second period, with assists from Thomas Chabot and Mike Reilly.
Sens goalie Matt Murray stopped 28-of-35 shots.
Smith said he considered pulling Murray at one point but decided the netminder needed to “work through it.”
“Certainly he didn’t have a very good game but you know what, he’s got got to work through it and find a way to battle for us there,” Smith said. “He’s no different than any other player and he’s got to find his groove here.”
Monday’s matchup was the first in a three-game series between Ottawa and Vancouver. The Canucks will play host again on Wednesday and Thursday.
Sens defenceman Erik Gudbranson hopes he and his teammates can use some of the intensity that built up toward the end of Monday night’s battle as fuel going forward.
“What you take from tonight is just that spite and you turn that into a will to win the next one and you come out and you play like you were embarrassed,” he said.
“With a young group, kids are very young and emotional and it’s hard to get rid of it. And I certainly struggled with it when I was younger so I completely understand it. But we got to find a way to take those emotions and bottle them up and use them in 48 hours.”
Sens rookie Tim Stutzle returned to the Sens lineup after missing three games with a wrist injury. Juolevi’s goal was the first of his NHL career. ... Vancouver has allowed more goals (34) than any other team in the league this season.