Ryan Malone is an interesting character in Tampa Bay Lightning history. The son of NHLer Greg Malone, Ryan spent plenty of time around NHL locker rooms in his youth. While his father was Canadian, Malone was born in Pittsburgh during his father’s time with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Malone chose to play internationally for Team USA winning an Olympic Silver Medal in 2010 and a World Championship Bronze Medal in 2004.
Malone was often referred to as Bugsy, a nickname his father went by during his career. The nickname comes from the gangster Bugsy Malone from the movie of the same name released in 1976. When Malone was a kid, he was called Little Bugsy when he was around the NHL locker room. The name stuck when he made it to the pros and he assumed the nickname of Bugsy for himself.
Malone was originally drafted by the Penguins in the fourth round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. he made his debut with the Pens after attending St. Cloud State University. After four seasons in Pittsburgh, Malone was traded to the Lightning prior to the 2008-09 season with Gary Roberts for a 2009 third round pick. The Lightning signed him to a seven-year contract extension two days later.
With a big frame at 6’4” and 225 pounds, he was a strong net front presence playing at times on Steven Stamkos’ left wing. He was a steady producer for the Lightning with a 0.68 points per game average over his first four seasons. As a player who played a physical, power forward game, he often dealt with injuries. 2012-13 after the NHL lockout in particular was difficult for Malone as he only played in 24 out of 48 games and only put up eight points. 2013-14 was not much better for him as he managed just 15 points in 57 games.
After an arrest for DUI and cocaine possession near the end of the 2013-14 season, the Lightning used their last compliance buyout granted from the new CBA to buy-out Malone’s last year without it impacting the salary cap negatively. He signed with the New York Rangers, but was not the same player and after six games with the Rangers and 24 games in the AHL, he retired. He attempted a comeback this past season after two years away from the game with the Iowa Wild in the AHL but scored just two points in 12 games.
But for this hat trick retrospective, we’ll go back to his hayday with the Lightning. Back before Jeff Vinik bought the team. Back before the new blue jerseys were introduced. When Mattias Ohlund was still healthy. When Steve Downie was still agitating for the Lightning. In fact, this was the last game Paul Ranger would record a point in a Lightning sweater before stepping away from hockey for personal reasons.
For Malone, this was his third hat trick of four in his career and his first with the Lightning and 31st hat trick overall for the Lightning franchise. Below, I’ll analyze each goal that he scored and how he got to his hat trick in this game. Check out the highlights in the YouTube video at the bottom.
For Malone’s first goal with the game tied 1-1, he was out on the ice with his usual center at the time, Steven Stamkos. Also as usual, he was parked in front of the net using his size to box out defenders and be disruptive. After picking up the puck from Martin St. Louis coming out of the corner, Ohlund moved down behind the net. Ohlund tried a wrap around when he cleared the other side of the net. The puck went off of a stick in front and bounced out away from the goal. Having body position, Malone moved over for the puck and took a back hand shot that beat Cam Ward to put the Lightning up 2-1. The goal was assisted by Ohlund and St. Louis.
The second goal wasn’t quite as gritty as his first goal. After the puck was dumped in by Paul Ranger, St. Louis battled for the puck in the center of the ice after the puck took a weird bounce off of the boards. He won the puck and while backing away from the net towards the left wing circle, he dumped the puck back to the center for Malone. Malone loaded up with a quick wrist shot and beat Ward glove side for his second goal. St. Louis and Ranger received the assists. That assist would be Ranger’s last assist and point for the Lightning after having scored his last goal earlier in the first period. The goal put the Lightning back on top 3-2.
To finish off the hat trick, Malone was on the ice with the Lightning leading 4-2 and the net empty for the Hurricanes. Malone challenged the Hurricanes defender at the left point and poked the puck out of the zone. Squeezing between the defender and the boards, Malone swept the puck down the ice while diving to the ice. The puck went the length of the ice and found the back of the net for his third goal to complete the hat trick. The goal was unassisted into an empty net. The Lightning won the game 5-2.