Rasmus Ristolainen already has seven goals. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Rasmus Ristolainen scores rare hat trick

As I wrote a week ago, before he scored the first hat trick by a Buffalo Sabres defenseman in almost 28 years, Rasmus Ristolainen is quickly becoming a star.

Ristolainen, 21, might be the Sabres’ best player. With three third-period goals Thursday in Calgary in the Sabres’ 4-3 loss to the Flames, he already has 21 points in 29 games, one more point than he compiled last season in 49 fewer games.

“He stepped up in a big way,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma told reporters in Calgary. “It was a wasted effort.”

When was Ristolainen’s last hat trick?

“I don’t know,” he told reporters. “Maybe when I was 10 or something. I played forward. I don’t remember. Maybe never.”

How rare was a night like Ristolainen’s?

– The hat trick was the first by a Sabres defenseman since Phil Housley on Jan. 22, 1988 against New Jersey.

– Ristolainen became the first Sabre to score three goals in one period since Thomas Vanek on March 19, 2008, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. An NHL defenseman hadn’t score three times in a period since St. Louis’ Al MacInnis on Oct. 12, 1998, according to Elias.

Update: Elias has corrected one note. The last defenseman with a hat trick in one period was Chicago’s Dustin Byfuglien on Nov. 30, 2007.

– Ristolainen became the second defenseman in franchise history to score three times in one period. The other? Jerry Korab on Nov. 19, 1978.

– It was the first hat trick by an NHL defenseman in a regulation loss since Edmonton’s Marc-Andre Bergeron on Jan. 14. 2006, according to Eric Hornick.

– Jim Schoenfeld, John Van Boxmeer and Hannu Virta are the other Buffalo defensemen with hat tricks. Housley also had another one.

– The Sabres hadn’t scored a hat trick since Vanek on Jan. 31, 2013 in Boston.

Thanks to Ian Ott at the Sabres for the quick work finding the facts.

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