WASHINGTON — Funny thing about the “Gordie Howe hat trick.” The guy it’s named after accomplished it only twice in his 26-year NHL career. Heck, Wayne Simmonds did it twice in a week a few years back.
But when you are a rookie fourth-liner like Nic Aube-Kubel, the chance of a “Gordie” — a goal, an assist, and a fighting major all in the same game — doesn’t come around very often. The all-time leader is longtime Flyer Rick Tocchet with 18, according to the Society for International Hockey Research.
“I think it was the first of my career,” said the 2014 second-round pick, “even in junior and stuff.”
Capitals fans came to Saturday’s game in D.C. hoping to see Alex Ovechkin make history. Instead, they saw Aube-Kubel join Eric Lindros as the first Flyers rookie in more than a quarter-century to record the quirky little feat. (And congratulations on reading what has to be the first paragraph ever to contain Ovechkin, Lindros, and Aube-Kubel.)
So how’d it happen?
Aube-Kubel collected his assist after a center-ice steal and subsequent gorgeous pass to Michael Raffl for a second-period goal. It gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead, changed the momentum of the game, and was the first of six consecutive Flyers goals.
Aube-Kubel got himself on the board in the third with an aggressive forecheck that forced a Capitals turnover. It was his third goal of the season, and with two elements down, all he needed was a fight.
The score was 7-1 and it was obvious Ovechkin wasn’t going to get his two goals to reach 700 for his career. That’s when Brendan Leipsic stepped up for Aube-Kubel.
“I was on the bench after my goal and the guys were like, ‘Are you gonna fight?’” Aube-Kubel said. "I wasn’t thinking about it, but Leipsic asked me on the faceoff and I was like, ‘Why not?’”
The Flyers are 9-1 in their last 10 games when one of their players records a Gordie Howe hat trick. The list:
♦ Nic Aube-Kubel, Feb. 8, 2020, at Washington, won, 7-2, fought Brendan Leipsic.
♦ Travis Konecny, Nov. 23, 2018, vs. N.Y. Rangers, won, 4-0, fought Ryan Strome.
♦ Sean Couturier, Jan. 4 2018, vs. N.Y. Islanders, won, 6-4, fought Josh Bailey.
♦ Dale Weise, March 30, 2017, vs. N.Y. Islanders, won 6-3, fought Travis Hamonic.
♦ Wayne Simmonds, March 30, 2017, vs. N.Y. Islanders, won 6-3, fought Anders Lee.
♦ Brayden Schenn, Oct. 27, 2016, vs. Arizona, lost, 5-4, fought Jakob Chychrun.
♦ R.J. Umberger, Oct. 22, 2014, at Pittsburgh, won, 5-3, fought Simon Despres.
♦ Wayne Simmonds, Feb. 23, 2013, vs. Winnipeg, won, 5-3, fought Chris Thorburn.
♦ Wayne Simmonds, Feb. 20, 2013, at Pittsburgh, won, 6-5, fought Tanner Glass.