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This article was published 24/11/2018 (1103 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
ST. LOUIS — Patrik Laine is making it look far too easy these days, playing NHL hockey as if it was one of his beloved video games set to the easiest mode possible.
Now, he’s put his name in the history books, scoring a franchise-record five goals Saturday in leading the Winnipeg Jets to a 8-4 rout of the St. Louis Blues.
"I felt like every time I touched the puck it kind of went in, somehow. I guess it was just one of those nights," Laine said following his monumental night.
One of those nights in one of those weeks. Laine is by far hottest player in the league now, with 11 goals since just Monday — that’s a good season for many players. He had a hat trick in Vancouver, two more in Calgary, one in Minnesota and then the eruption in St. Louis. That gives Laine 19 goals in 22 games, which leads the NHL.
"To be honest with you, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. I said that once and figured I would keep it to myself. On the nights he’s scored his three, he’s had his chances to get so much more. But boy, those guys were so good and some of those goals, you’ve just got to sit back and smile — if you’re standing on the right bench," coach Paul Maurice said.
Winnipeg snapped a two-game losing streak and finished this four-game road trip at 2-2-0, improving to 13-7-2 overall.
Laine’s road trip included eight five-on-five goals (including four Saturday), two power-play tallies and one empty-netter. It’s a remarkable run for a player who only scored three times in his team’s first 12 games of the year, but now has 16 goals in 10 November games, which began with a Nov. 1 hat trick in Finland against Florida.
"He got his game right just before (Finland). Confidence is (everything). For shooters and goaltenders, you’ve got to make the save and you’ve got to get a puck to go into the net. There’s nothing you can do until they find that confidence themselves," Maurice said.
With seven career hat tricks — including two this week and three this month — Laine now sits behind only Wayne Gretzky for most by a player before their 21st birthday; the Great One had 12. Laine was tied with Dale Hawerchuk and Jimmy Carson prior to Saturday night.
Linemates Kyle Connor and Bryan Little had a great view of Laine’s performance, as they each had four assists in a truly dominant night for their line.
"Just get the puck to Patty, right? He was feeling it. I think it’s pretty special, with that shot he has. It’s fun to watch out there," Connor said. "You’re definitely looking for him. It seems like everything he touches right now is going into the back of the net. When he gets on a streak like that it’s almost automatic."
Laine only needed five shots on net to score his five goals Saturday, which speaks to just how lethal his release is. The NHL record for goals in a game is seven, set by Joe Malone in 1920. The last time anyone scored six was Darryl Sittler in 1976. And the last five-goal game in the NHL came off the stick of Detroit’s Johan Franzen in February 2011.
"That’s unbelievable. The funny thing is, it just seemed like he was always open. Whenever he got it, he had time with it and you can’t give him that much time. He’s got one of the best shots in the league. It’s fun to watch, that’s for sure," Little said.
Laine said he didn’t know he was potentially chasing history, especially after he got to five goals.
"Just try to score, try not to celly so hard," he said of his mindset as the night wore on. "It’s fun to play, obviously we’re having some great plays with my linemates. It’s pretty easy to play hockey right now with those guys. Just got to keep working hard and keep doing the things that we’re doing."
Winnipeg was looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss Friday in Minnesota in which they blew a 2-0 third period lead and lost 4-2. And things didn’t get off to the best start when St. Louis forward David Perron opened the scoring in the first period by beating backup goalie Laurent Brossoit with a weak wrister.
But it was pretty much all Jets from that point on. Captain Blake Wheeler tied it a couple minutes later when his pass deflected off a Blues player past Chad Johnson. It was the fourth of the year for Wheeler.
Laine got his first of the night just 41 seconds later, then really took over the game after Vladimir Tarasenko tied it late in the first. Laine scored three times in the middle frame, while Brandon Tanev added his third of the season to break the game wide open. Laine then added his fifth just 1:16 into the third period, finding himself wide open in the slot.
"I was pretty surprised I was wide open and kind of had the time to look where I was shooting and kind of picked the spot," Laine said.
St. Louis got two back later in the third thanks to a puck-handling miscue by Brossoit that led to a Ryan O’Reilly goal and a Patrick Maroon power play tally. Brendan Lemieux then capped things by scoring his first of the year in the final minute. Lemieux was only in the lineup because forward Andrew Copp suffered a concussion the night before.
Brossoit stopped 23 of 27 shots he faced in improving to 4-0-1 in his five starts this year.
"I think, overall, it was a great bounce back for the whole team after those two losses," said Laine, who insists hockey truly isn’t as simple as it might appear to be right now.
"Every goal you’re going to score in this league is hard. It’s the best league in the world. Obviously scoring five is pretty unreal. But for those who think it’s easy, it’s not."
The Jets flew home after the game and will enjoy today off before returning to practice Monday. They kick off a quick two-game homestand with visits from Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Chicago on Thursday.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.