‘Matinee Mack’ on the attack: Weegar pots three as Flames stay hot

Ryan Leslie is joined by Calgary Flames' MacKenzie Weegar to go through his first career hat trick against the Islanders, and how the locker room is like after a recent hot streak.

ELMONT, NY – The NHL has a new leading goal scorer amongst defencemen, and he got there doing something he’s never done before.

“I never would have thought I’d have a hat trick in the NHL,” said MacKenzie Weegar, following a Saturday afternoon scoring binge that earned him the nickname Matinee Mack.

“I don’t even think I’ve ever had one.

“Maybe Timbits, but I don’t remember it. This is a new feeling.”

In a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders at UBS Arena that gave the Flames their fourth victory in a row, Weegar’s ability to find the net was so infectious even Jacob Markstrom tried getting in on the act.

“Twice in one game and neither one made it past the hash marks,” laughed the Flames netminder of his muffed attempts to score into an open net.

“I should work on some wrist curls.”

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Asked before the game what he knew about the Flames, all recently hired Islanders coach Patrick Roy talked about was how important it was to try shutting down Calgary’s defencemen.

Maybe next time.

Weegar scored in each of the three periods to pass Cale Makar and Rasmus Dahlin to sit first amongst NHL defencemen with 15 goals.

It also moved the club past Montreal and into second place with 35 goals from defencemen, adding empirical evidence to the notion the Flames’ strength and identity revolves largely around its blue line.

“When I got traded here, I thought a big strength of this team was that defensive core,” said Weegar, who will have ample opportunity to become the Flames’ first defenceman to score 20 goals since Mark Giordano’s 21 in 2015-16.

“I’ve always thought in my head we’re an elite defensive core back there, top of the league. and it’s kind of clicking for us back there this year.

“Hanny (Noah Hanifin) and Tanny (Chris Tanev) lead the way, they’ve been consistent shutting guys down as well. 

“Ollie (Kylington) has been a big boost, and Pickles (Brayden Pachal) has been great for us too, he’s physical back there.

“We’re having fun and we’ve just got to keep this going.”

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Therein lies the problem.

This defensive group won’t be together much longer.

The futures of Hanifin and Tanev, which makes up one of the league’s most effective tandems, are very much in doubt, as one or both of the highly desirable deadline additions will likely be dealt before the March 8 trade deadline.

Sure, the club’s latest streak has them right back in the wild-card race, but the bigger picture is at the forefront of GM Craig Conroy’s mind.

With that in mind, Dennis Gilbert and Jordan Oesterle have been traveling with the club in case they’re needed before the road trip ends at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

Stay tuned.

Give the lads credit, they’ve remained upbeat and undeterred since the Elias Lindholm trade, and they are well aware more changes are on the way.

Yet they roll on, thriving off a youthful exuberance in the room that has them all smiles during what some worried would be a hellish trip through Boston and all three New York area stops.

Up 3-0 after two periods against an equally as desperate Islanders team, the hosts made it a two-goal game before Blake Coleman scored into the empty net with four minutes remaining.

The net stayed empty, prompting Markstrom’s boldness, which included a second dribbler up the middle that caused the maddest of scrambles before it wound up in his net.

“I tried to hit the guy in the middle – I don’t think I tried to shoot, did I? It was a pass,” laughed Markstrom, who was stellar once again with 35 saves.

“I should have just given it to the D. Instead, Tanny and everyone tried to play goal. I owe them something. I’ll put something together.”

“It’s a little embarrassing. Up by three and they pulled the goalie, so if there was a time to shoot it, it was today and it ended up in the back of the net. So I’ll be more cautious next time.”

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It was assistant coach Marc Savard who anointed Weegar ‘Matinee Mack,’ as he had everyone on the ice searching for him to score the empty netter until Jonathan Huberdeau found him open at the point.  

“Obviously at the end I knew he was there and I wanted him to get his hat trick,” said Huberdeau, who continued his improved play, adding a late assist to his earlier power play goal.

“I mean, I don’t shoot when there’s a goalie, so when it’s an empty net I’m not shooting.

“He’s unbelievable and got rewarded tonight. 

“I’m really happy for him.”

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