By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Over the course of the last month, David Pastrnak had gone quiet. Well, relatively quiet.

In 12 games, the NHL’s leading goal scorer netted just three goals. He did register 10 assists, and the Bruins did go 8-3-1 in that span, so it was far from an issue. But the torrid pace at which Pastrnak had scored all year had finally slowed, allowing Auston Matthew and Alex Ovechkin to pass him for the NHL lead in goals.

Suffice it to say, that quiet stretch is now over. And Pastrnak has his spot back at the top of the league.

With a goal in the first period and a pair of goals in the second, Pastrnak recorded his fourth hat trick of the season. It brought his season total to 41, marking the first time in his career that he’s reached the 40-goal mark.

“Well, obviously, I’m happy for it,” Pastrnak said after the 4-1 win. “It’s something that I haven’t accomplished yet, so obviously excited. But I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, and big thanks to them.”

That much was surely true on Pastrnak’s first, which came after linemate Brad Marchand made a seemingly impossible to play to set up an easy goal for No. 88.

Pastrnak admitted he didn’t really give Marchand a chance to make that play.

“At some point, I kind of gave up driving. I stopped skating,” Pastrnak said. “I was like, there’s no way he can make that play, you know, two, three guys on his back. So great play by him.”

On the second goal, Pastrnak made a play in his defensive end to help pick the pocket of Jeff Petry. On a 2-on-2 rush with Sean Kuraly, Pastrnak made himself available, received a pass, deked the goaltender and then went top shelf, just for good measure.

And on the third, Pastrnak found himself in the right place at the right time — as he often does — when a clearing attempt by Petry ended up right on Pastrnak’s tape. Pastrnak wasted no time in sending it back on net, beating a sprawling Carey Price before the hats rained down upon the ice.

Carey Price looks on as fans throw hats on to the ice after David Pastrnak’s hat trick. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

With his fourth hat trick of the year, Pastrnak joined Alex Ovechkin as the only players with four hat tricks this season.

Pastrnak also kept his name alongside Cam Neely’s for fastest Bruins to ever score 40 goals. Pastrnak reached the mark in 58 games played, best by a Bruin since Neely did it in just 36 games in his famed 1993-94 campaign.

And with Ovechkin on the cusp of tallying his 700th career goal, Pastrnak’s coach said he could envision a scenario where Pastrnak ends up in that same spot some day.

“Well, I’m going to say Pasta because, I love the kid,” Bruce Cassidy said when asked if any other players might reach the 700-goal mark. “And he’s young, and he’s scoring. So, I think it’s always about health, it’s always are you surrounded by good players to help you. I mean, if you’re the only guy out there on your team, I think it would be hard every night for 82 games to try to push that. He’s got good support. So yeah, I think he’s one of those guys.”

While Cassidy was quick to praise the work of Marchand and Kuraly on the first two goals, he also expressed some genuine happiness for Pastrnak.

“I think the way he started this year, we’d all thought he’d be in that area anyway, challenging for 50 [goals]. That’ll be the next conversation I assume, and good for him. He deserves it,” Cassidy said. “He’s done a lot of things well and he goes to the right spots, worked on his shot, worked on his strength to handle pucks. Let’s see him keep going.”

Cassidy also noted how Pastrnak’s been more than willing to share the puck, something not always seen in a 40-plus goal scorer.

“The play he made the other night to Torey [Krug], he could’ve shot, he chose to give it to — Torey wasn’t wide open, but a chance for a tap-in. So he’s not a selfish player in that regard, and that’s a word you want to really avoid with your players. You want to keep them out of the locker room, guys that are selfish,” Cassidy said. “There has to be a little bit of, in goal scorers, a little bit of that attitude that you can score, so selfish in terms of shooting pucks is never a bad play. Selfish about not scoring [when] the team is having success is not good, so you’ve got to get that out of it, and he’s never had that, so good for him. I think it’s what makes him a special player, and especially at a young age, because sometimes it takes a while to sort of learn those sort of traits. But he’s had good character since he walked in the door, and I think it will just continue to grow.”

Marchand, who’s averaged 37 goals per year over the past four seasons but has yet to hit the 40-goal mark himself, complimented Pastrnak’s 200-foot game and the fact that he’s been able to overcome teams applying more focus on stopping him..

“He’s really become an elite player in the league. The fact that he’s continued to find ways to score when teams are really zoning in on him, it’s very impressive. There’s very few guys in the league that can do that, and he consistently puts up with the abuse and guys shadowing him. And his ability to find ways to score in different situations, it’s very impressive,” Marchand said. “Even his defensive game is continuing to come along, and he cares about that aspect. He wants to win, and he’s a great teammate, so he’s going to be a hell of a player for a long time.”

Marchand added that there’s no telling how good the 23-year-old Czech can become.

“Yeah, kind of scary to kind of look at where his ceiling might be. He continues to push it, continues to get better,” Marchand said. “So it’s fun to watch him, it’s fun to play with him. You always have to be on your toes because you never know what he’s going to do; I don’t think he even knows what he’s doing half the time. So it makes it very dangerous for other teams and other players when he’s so unpredictable. But yeah, he continues to grow, so I’m excited to see where he’s going to be in a couple of years.”


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