BOSTON — Watch out, NHL.
It’s official: David Pastrnak has reached supernova status once again. The Bruins superstar winger extended his lead in the goal-scoring department by tallying a hat trick and pacing the Bruins to a 5-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night at TD Garden, giving him 35 goals in 45 games this season.
It was actually the “David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk Show” as the B’s left winger had the other two goals that accounted for all five Boston scores on the evening, but it felt like No. 88 was willing his team to victory in true superstar fashion at a time when Boston needs some wins.
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The 23-year-old Pastrnak is truly collecting some elite, mind-popping numbers, whether it’s the NHL-leading seven hat tricks he’s amassed over the last two seasons, the streak of 12 straight games with a point that ties him with the legendary Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito as the only B’s with multiple 12-game point streaks in the same season, or the six goals scored in four games while tearing it up in January.
After scoring 12 goals in each of October and November before “slumping” to five goals in 15 games during the month of December, Pastrnak has already scored six goals less than two weeks into the month of January.
Perhaps the most fun is now watching Pastrnak and Auston Matthews go back and forth for the goal-scoring title as the Leafs star was closing the gap on the B’s right winger until he exploded for the three goals on Thursday. Pastrnak says he’s not keeping a close eye on the individual stats, but he certainly has to know where he and Matthews stand headed into their nightly games.
Pastrnak entered Thursday just a goal ahead of the red-hot Matthews, but now he’s again widened that gap after his NHL-best third hat trick in a season that’s barely halfway over.
“It’s been good, you know? I don’t overthink anything and just play the same way. I focus on the things that help the team most and don’t put any pressure on myself. I just play my game,” said Pastrnak. “For me it’s just trying to get [my shot] past the first guy and I work on it every practice. I don’t think about it. It’s nice. It’s what I’m here for and the kind of player that I am.
“[Matthews] is a great goal-scorer, so it’s nothing new. It’s not anything I’m focused on. Obviously I see it because NHL Network is on in the room and he’s scored some nice goals. But it’s a team sport and none of these things matter. It’s getting the two points that matters.”
It does appear that Pastrnak hasn’t just magically started scoring goals again, though.
Teams had begun to shut off the young winger on the power play by denying him his shooting spot from the faceoff circle, and shadowing him a bit on the man advantage while forcing other players to beat them. Well, that just forced Pastrnak to set up a little deeper in the offensive zone where he’s not firing one-timer rockets from the top of the face-off circle on direct feeds from Torey Krug.
That was the case for his second goal in Thursday’s game as Patrice Bergeron won the faceoff, and then Torey Krug fed it to Pastrnak for the smoked one-time goal just five seconds into the power play possession. Pastrnak then scored the game-tying goal in the third period when he went hard to the net and flipped in a quick David Krejci dish after DeBrusk crashed the net for a short-side drive that created a loose puck rebound.
As with most of Pastrnak's hat trick nights, it was a pretty good display of all his different offensive abilities to create offense and score goals that have catapulted him into the role of most dangerous game-breaker in the league.
“Look, even if there’s a guy standing next to him, I’ve got to get the puck to him to put it on net and let him shoot for [Bergeron’s] stick or shoot to score, or go through the seam to Marchand,” said Krug. “I’ve got to give him a chance. He’s got however many goals and a ton of points, and he’s electric with the puck. I’ve got to give him a shot with the puck no matter what is happening.”
Because make no mistake about it: Pastrnak busted up a competitive Winnipeg Jets group on Thursday night and even scored on a make-shift shift with the fourth line while Chris Wagner was briefly pulled from the game by the concussion spotter.
“Typically, Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron’s] line, they’re going to give you offense. Pasta [David Pastrnak] ends up finishing some shifts on the other lines and ends up scoring, kind of extending his shift. Wags [Chris Wagner] got pulled off by the spotter and we happened to throw Pasta out there and the puck finds him [when he’s hot] so it worked out well for us in that regard,” said Bruce Cassidy.
“I think the last two games you’re seeing more up and down the lineup whereas the few games before that it was a struggle for some guys. But it’s a long year and you hope they’ll come out of it and it looks like, at least in the short term here, we have.”
Certainly Pastrnak has the hot stick and the goal-scoring swagger back after a relatively slow month of December, and that should put everybody on notice that more video game numbers and Bruins records will be broken in the weeks ahead by arguably the best pure goal-scorer the Bruins have had in their franchise’s history.