Kasperi Kapanen downplayed his hat trick on Saturday night as the Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the St. Louis Blues, 6-2, at PPG Paints Arena.
Kapanen, 26, who went ice-cold in the goal-scoring department for nearly 60 games from last season to this season, has four goals in his last two games, including the game-winner Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights and the hat trick Saturday.
All three goals were power-play derivative, even if one was even-strength because it came two seconds after the power play expired. And all three goals were scored within feet of the net. According to NHL.com, the goals were from seven, eight, and seven feet away.
We’re not sure where they’re measured from, because they seemed even closer.
“I feel like our line, in general, has just been playing solid. (Jeff Carter and Brock McGinn), they are the two coolest guys,” Kapanen said. “The chemistry is good right now. I’m also trying to use my skating to get on the forecheck, hang on to pucks a little bit, and go to the blue paint. I think that’s a good example (Saturday). That might have been the easiest hat trick in history — just going back-post, tapping them in.”
Tap, tap, Taparoo.
Kapanen was a healthy scratch for nearly two whole weeks. After scoring in the first game of the season, Kapanen was scoreless for 12 games and had no goals in 13.
He served as the scratch from Nov. 15 until the Penguins’ OT loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday, a span of seven games.
“I think I haven’t been around the net as much as I should be, so I’m probably just trying to think about that and get into the paint,” Kapanen said. “You know, sometimes good things happen, and that happened today.
“I think (my game) is building, and it’s a good sign … it hasn’t been the easiest month, but I’m happy to be out there and playing games and winning games. And obviously, your confidence is going to grow.”
Kapanen’s game over the last two Penguins’ games bears little resemblance to the detached perimeter game he was playing. The mid-wall button-hook has been replaced with a deep chip or aggressive move between the dots.
His soft wall battles have become a quest for the puck. It’s the type of player the Penguins need and have been hoping to get from Kasperi Kapanen.
“I give him so much credit. I think he’s trying to play the game right,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s trying to get inside, going to the net. He’s physical on the forecheck. He’s challenging defensemen with his speed. He’s using his speed in so many different ways. I think his second effort and third effort … He’s just on the puck.”