DeBrincat’s hat trick carries Blackhawks past Ducks
CHICAGO — Blackhawks rookie right winger Alex DeBrincat still is trying to wrap his head around the fact that he is a teenager playing in the NHL.
“Maybe it still hasn’t hit me,” DeBrincat, 19, said with a grin.
Opposing teams are quickly discovering that DeBrincat belongs in the spotlight. The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Michigan native scored his first career hat trick and notched an assist as part of a four-point performance, and Chicago pulled away for a 7-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.
“Special night for him,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He finds the net. He sees pucks. He gets himself available. The puck follows him around. He’s got a great stick, anticipation, high-end play recognition. Special player.”
Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov and Nick Schmaltz also scored as the Blackhawks tallied their second-most goals of the season. Chicago (12-8-3) extended its point streak to five games.
Chris Wagner scored twice for the Ducks, who also received a goal from Jakob Silfverberg. Anaheim (10-10-4) is winless in its past four games (0-3-1).
The drubbing was so one-sided that Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle switched his goaltenders midway through the second period solely due to the team’s defensive problems. John Gibson started and gave up four goals on 22 shots. He was replaced by Ryan Miller, who allowed three goals on 13 shots.
“To tell you truth, I thought it was a mercy pull,” Carlyle said. “I told (Gibson), ‘We’re not going to leave any goaltender in that situation where we’re going to leave you hanging high and dry like that.’ I didn’t think we were playing very well in front of him, and I felt they both should share in the responsibility of the hockey game. By no means was it (Gibson’s) fault.”
DeBrincat’s outburst made life easier for Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who recorded 25 saves to improve to 11-7-1.
The Blackhawks jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first period behind goals by Sharp, DeBrincat and Saad. Sharp’s early one-timer snapped a 16-game scoring drought and marked his first goal since Oct. 14.
“When you’re down three (in the first period), obviously it’s not ideal,” Wagner said. “We’ve got to take a look at it, and we just need to start on time. We talked about it, and (we can) keep talking about it until the cows come home, but it doesn’t matter unless we do it.”
Anisimov scored his team-leading 11th goal early in the second period when he batted a bouncing puck out of the air and into the back of the net. The play marked his sixth goal in the past six games.
Silfverberg broke the shutout with an unassisted goal midway through the second period to cut the deficit to 4-1.
DeBrincat responded less than two minutes later with his second goal of the game on a feed from Ryan Hartman. He capped the hat trick with 5:46 remaining in the second period as fans littered the ice with winter hats that were a promotional giveaway.
“It was nice,” DeBrincat said. “I think pucks were bouncing my way today. It’s cool to get that over with.”
Asked whether he had a chip on his shoulder because he was passed over 38 times in the 2016 NHL draft, DeBrincat said no.
“I think I was just relieved to go to such a great organization,” he said. “I didn’t really care where I went, I just wanted to go to a good team and hopefully I could contribute down the road.”
Wagner netted his first goal in the second period. He added a power-play goal in the third period when he punched in a rebound from the front of the crease.
Schmaltz finished the scoring on a perfect feed from Patrick Kane with 14:12 remaining in the third period.
“All four lines contributed,” Schmaltz said. “It’s fun when we’re playing like that, when everyone is having fun and making plays and holding onto the puck. We’ve got a great group when we play like that.”
NOTES: Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane notched three assists to increase his point streak to seven games. He has four goals and seven assists during the streak. ... Ducks C Rickard Rakell missed his second consecutive game because of an upper-body injury. Rakell leads the squad with 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 23 games. ... Blackhawks C Tanner Kero and D Jordan Oesterle were healthy scratches, while D Michal Kempny sat out due to an illness. ... Ducks C Kalle Kossila played in his second straight game since being promoted from the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. ... Blackhawks D Duncan Keith notched an assist for the third consecutive game.