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Bennett scores 4, Flames down Panthers 6-0

Rookie Sam Bennett put together the best game of his young NHL career.

Bennett scored four goals, including three in the first period for his first hat trick in the League, to help the Calgary Flames to a 6-0 win against the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.

“I think it’s big for my confidence,” Bennett said. “I knew I felt confident playing in this league and now I think I took another step in the right direction. It’ll just keep building on my confidence.”

Johnny Gaudreau and Mason Raymond scored, and Jonas Hiller, in his first start since Dec. 12, made 15 saves for his first shutout of the season and the 23rd of his NHL career.

Calgary (20-20-2) went 2-2-0 on a four-game homestand.

“I think we didn’t play our best hockey the last few home games especially,” Hiller said. “Tonight, it was one of our best efforts for 60 minutes. We didn’t give them really anything for the whole game. I think if we play that way, it doesn’t matter who we have in net, we’ll always have a chance to win.”

Bennett is the youngest player in Flames history to get a hat trick, at 19 years, 207 days, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Jim Peplinski, at 21 years, 24 days, set the previous record as part of a four-goal game on Nov. 17, 1981, against the Winnipeg Jets. Bennett is the sixth rookie in Flames history with a hat trick, joining Joe Nieuwendyk, Brett Hull, Matthew Lombardi, Josh Jooris and Gaudreau.

“It’s pretty cool,” Bennett said. “I didn’t even know that until someone brought it up. I guess it is a pretty great accomplishment that I’m really proud of.”

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Bennett has scored in back-to-back games after going 18 straight without a goal. He ended his scoring drought Monday in a 5-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

“I’m definitely really happy for him,” Hiller said. “He has so much skill. It’s not easy as a 19-year-old. Everybody’s eyes are on you, and when things don’t go well, it’s tough to find your way out. He definitely found a way. I think that’s something that really proves he can be a really great player in this league.”

Al Montoya made 19 saves on 21 shots for the Panthers (26-13-5), who have lost two straight since setting their record with 12 consecutive wins. He relieved Roberto Luongo, who allowed four goals on 15 shots in the first period.

“You can say what you want about (the 12-game winning streak),” Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “I think potentially there was a little bit of arrogance to our game towards the end of that streak. At the end of the day, the only thing I can say is we got our butts handed to us tonight. It was well-deserved. We earned every minute of it.

“I think, at the end of the day, it’s a good thing. I don’t think anybody’s really felt really good about our game over the past four, five games, so we needed a good spanking like that.”

Bennett scored 56 seconds into the game on Calgary’s first shot, one-timing a pass from Jiri Hudler from the slot by Luongo’s blocker to put the Flames up 1-0.

It didn’t take long for Bennett to get his first multigoal game in the NHL.

After Gaudreau doubled the lead with his Flames-leading 19th goal at 5:52, Bennett scored again at 12:01 to make it 3-0. After gaining control on a broken play just inside the Panthers blue line, Bennett went in uncontested on Luongo and lost the handle on a deke, but the puck trickled into the back of the net.

“It’s funny how that works,” Bennett said. “There’s a couple chances previously that maybe I should’ve got rewarded more than that second goal. That one was a little lucky. It is funny how that works. I was just fortunate tonight.”

Bennett completed the hat trick five minutes later. Deryk Engelland’s initial shot was stopped, but he tapped the rebound to Bennett, who lifted a backhand over Luongo’s glove to put the Flames ahead 4-0 with 2:59 left in the first.

Bennett’s first-period hat trick was the first in the NHL since Jan. 18, 2014, when Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis scored three of his four goals in a game against the San Jose Sharks in the first, according to Elias.

“It’s a great feeling,” Bennett said. “I think I’ve been getting a lot of chances and I’m getting the bounces. It’s a great feeling to get rewarded, for sure.”

Raymond made it 5-0 at 13:20 of the second period. Montoya couldn’t get to Mark Giordano’s dump-in, and Raymond redirected David Jones’ centering pass into the net before Montoya could reset in his crease.

Bennett capped his night by dekeing around Alex Petrovic before beating Montoya with a backhand with 24.2 seconds remaining in the third for his fourth goal of the game and 10th of the season.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Bennett said. “I think my mind just went blank. It was just one of those nights. I think the boys are pretty happy for me.”

Bennett is the first Calgary player to score four goals in a game since Jarome Iginla against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 23, 2003, and the second rookie in Flames history to score four goals in a game; Nieuwendyk did it twice, and Jiri Hrdina once.

The Panthers’ 13-game point streak (12-0-1), the longest in their history, came to an end. They are 3-1-1 on their six-game road trip, which concludes Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Flames begin a five-game road trip Saturday at the Edmonton Oilers.

SCORING SUMMARY
1ST PERIOD
00:56
CGY
Sam Bennett (7) ASST: Jiri Hudler (16), Dougie Hamilton (10) 1 – 0 CGY
05:52
CGY
Johnny Gaudreau (19) ASST: NONE 2 – 0 CGY
12:01
CGY
Sam Bennett (8) ASST: Mikael Backlund (14), Dougie Hamilton (11) 3 – 0 CGY
17:01
CGY
Sam Bennett (9) ASST: Deryk Engelland (3), Josh Jooris (4) 4 – 0 CGY
2ND PERIOD
13:20
CGY
Mason Raymond (4) ASST: David Jones (6), Mark Giordano (16) 5 – 0 CGY
3RD PERIOD
19:35
CGY
Sam Bennett (10) ASST: Jiri Hudler (17) 6 – 0 CGY
PENALTY SUMMARY
1ST PERIOD
06:32
FLA
Erik Gudbranson  Holding against  Mikael Backlund
19:42
FLA
Jussi Jokinen  Holding against  Mark Giordano
2ND PERIOD
14:26
CGY
Mikael Backlund  Tripping against  Alex Petrovic
3RD PERIOD
04:55
CGY
Mason Raymond  Hooking against  Brandon Pirri
GOALIE STATS
Roberto Luongo
ROBERTO LUONGO

19-12-4
SA: 15 TOI: 20:00
Saves: 11 EV: 7 – 11
PIM: 0 PP: 4 – 4
SV%: .733 SH: 0 – 0
Al Montoya
AL MONTOYA

SA: 21 TOI: 40:00
Saves: 19 EV: 15 – 17
PIM: 0 PP: 2 – 2
SV%: .905 SH: 2 – 2
Jonas Hiller
JONAS HILLER

5-4-0
SA: 15 TOI: 60:00
Saves: 15 EV: 15 – 15
PIM: 0 PP: 0 – 0
SV%: 1.000 SH: 0 – 0

Coleton MacDonald
The Founder of Weliveforhockey.com
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