Four years ago, at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Auston Matthews went No. 1 overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Winnipeg followed by taking Patrick Laine No. 2.
With the third pick, the Columbus Blue Jackets took a flyer on a gangly teenager from Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec and the crowd at First Niagara Center in Buffalo gasped. The Jackets were widely expected to take Finnish product Jesse Puljujärvi with the No. 3 pick, but Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen had other plans.
“That’s the guy we had our eye on all year long,” Kekalainen said of Dubois at the time. “Our scouts loved him. He’s everything we were looking for: he’s a smart, skilled, big player with a lot of character and leadership qualities.”
Matthews and Laine have since become superstars, with both recording seasons of 40 or more goals in their young NHL careers. Dubois took a step toward his own superstardom Thursday night in Toronto, recording the first postseason hat trick in Blue Jackets franchise history and capped by the winner in overtime to give his team a 2–1 series lead over the Maple Leafs.
Midway through the second period, with his Blue Jackets down 3-0 and not much of anything going their way, Dubois got his first goal of the night off a nifty fade-away feed from defenseman Zach Werenski. Dubois, hanging low on the right circle, collected the pass and put it upstairs, beating Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen high and glove side.
Just like that, the Jackets were back in it.
The teams would take that 3-1 score into the third period and Dubois kept flying, slowly but surely starting to take over a game that happened to feature Matthews, the man who went No. 1 overall in that 2016 draft.
A little over seven minutes into the final period, Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones cut Toronto's lead to one with a snipe and Dubois seemed to keep feeding off the energy his team was now playing with.
Three minutes later, Cam Atkinson chipped the puck out of his own defensive zone and Dubois scooped it up, racing down the right wing past a sprawling Kasperi Kapanen before looking his linemate Alexandre Texier off and firing a dart under Andersen's left armpit.
The game was tied and Dubois had officially taken over with the first multi-goal postseason game of his young career. With four minutes to play in regulation, Dubois nearly won it for the Blue Jackets but was stopped on the doorstep by Andersen.
The teams would head to overtime, knotted at three, but Dubois was not done for the night. After nearly an entire extra period of the teams trading possession and chances, Dubois would get the game-winner, his third of the night, with a little over 90 seconds to play.
And boy was it a beauty.
Texier stripped Toronto's John Tavares in the Blue Jackets defensive end and raced into the neutral zone. Dubois was racing with him, a few strides ahead, and banging his stick on the ice, calling for a pass. Texier delivered with a textbook saucer pass to free No. 18 on a breakaway. One quick move to his backhand and boom — Dubois had won the game with his third of the night on a sick backhand that landed top shelf.
His bench went wild, and just like that, the Blue Jackets had a 2–1 series lead, thanks to their young, emerging superstar, who had just recorded the first postseason hat trick in club history and become just the 10th player in the last 27 years to complete a playoff hat trick with an overtime goal.
“Tex got it and then he made a nice play, not passing it right away or chipping it right away, he just kept the puck and was patient with it, and then he tossed a nice little saucer up the middle of the ice,” Dubois said after the game. “He hit me free on a breakaway. It was a hell of a play by him..”
It was a spectacular goal and worth watching again in French.
WOW! Pierre-Luc Dubois russit le premier tour du chapeau de l'histoire des Blue Jackets en sries... en PROLONGATION! pic.twitter.com/ndzS6ELeSw— TVASports (@TVASports) August 7, 2020
Dubois' performance in Toronto Thursday night – three goals on six shots, and a big 27:30 of ice time – was a giant step into greatness for the 22-year-old.
“I just think that with Luc, if he wants to be a difference-maker, a game-changer, one of the best players I think in the league, he has all the capabilities, all the tools,” Atkinson said about his linemate after the game. “Tonight he showed it.”
“It was a team effort tonight,” Dubois said. “Korpi played well enough to keep us in it. We just changed him to give us a little boost. Elvis made saves to give us a chance to come back. From there, it’s like our team, we gained confidence. And then the rest is history, I guess.”
After the game, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said he wanted his players to “have a ball out there.” Pierre-Luc Dubois did just that Thursday night, cementing his name in the Blue Jackets' record book.