It took 286 games and four years.

There were 76 two-goal games between them and two cities that called the team home.

But when Bryan Little scored for the third time in a 6-2 win over the visiting Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 5, the organization’s hat trick drought finally ended - and significantly - a Winnipeg Jets’ player proudly claimed full ownership of the new record.

It has not been easy for the Jets franchise to put its own stamp on Atlanta Thrashers history at times, even though the uniform scheme has changed, passionate sellout crowds are the norm in downtown Winnipeg and the roster has been turned over since the Georgia days. But some old franchise records remain and always seem to be the most difficult to rewrite.

Of course, fans of the Jets knew at some point that the hat trick slump would eventually end. Followers of the team had even isolated certain players who were more likely to supersede former Thrashers forward Eric Boulton as the last franchise player to record a hat trick. Boulton’s three-goal game came back on Dec. 18, 2010.

Names like Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane were probably top of mind. But when Little scored three times last week, nobody was that surprised. After all, over the last three-plus seasons the Jets have been in Winnipeg, Little is just slightly behind Wheeler and Ladd, respectively, for the team’s overall scoring lead.

“You knew it was a matter of time,” said Little. “I didn’t think it would take this long, but we’ve got a (number) of guys that can do it. It’s something we’ve talked about, but it’s not something we take too seriously as long as we’re winning.”

Last week, the Jets did both, as Little’s hat trick came in an important win for his club over a Central Division rival at home. It was a moment fans at MTS Centre had waited for patiently. And after Little wristed a shot past Avalanche goaltender Seymon Varlamov for his third goal of the game at 1:17 of the third period, the roof on the building bubbled for the rest of the night.

The goal also chased Varlamov from the net, and he watched the celebration continue for the balance from the Colorado bench as Reto Berra came on in relief only to be footnote to the historic night in Jets’ history.

“Honestly, two of the three goals I didn’t celebrate because I didn’t know they were in,” said Little, who recorded his only other NHL hat trick in 2008 against Carolina as a member of the Thrashers. “It was unbelievable. It was the loudest I’ve heard this place in a while.”

The first had to be reviewed because Varlamov actually caught the puck in his glove, but was ruled via video review that the puck was behind the goal line in goaltender’s mitt. The third goal also caused a celebratory delay because Little thought it initially went off the cross bar, but in fact, it had fully entered the net and quickly kicked back out.

“It was a good night for the whole team,” said Ladd, who along with Little and Wheeler combined to record nine points that night as a line. “It was nice to see (Bryan) get it. He’s a guy that quietly goes about his business and doesn’t get the recognition he probably deserves. It was great to hear the crowd chanting his name and just a good night for the whole team.”

Little finished the game with an assist as well for a four-point night overall. He is also the only Jets player this season to record a power-play (2), shorthanded (1) and game-winning goal (1). He also leads the team with a plus-8 this season.

Interestingly, the former 2006 first-round pick (12th overall) of the Thrashers had a chance for a fourth goal in the game. It happened during a six-on-three situation with the Jets two men short and the Colorado net empty in favor of the extra attacker. Little broke up a play, skated to centre and slid the puck toward the empty net, but he admitted he was at the end of a tough shift and didn’t have the energy to get the puck fully to the opposition goal.

“I was exhausted,” he said. “I had nothing left and couldn’t even shoot the puck hard.”

Either way, Little now owns the Jets’ distinction as the most recent player to record three goals in a game. Whether it takes 286 games again between them remains to be determined.

NOTES: Defenceman Adam Pardy has played 77 games with the Jets, but is still waiting to record his first goal with the organization. He has four goals career in 277 NHL games…. Of the 15 wins the Jets have this season, 12 have come when they’ve scored the first goal….Winnipeg has not posted a comeback victory in regulation this season when trailing after two periods (0-6-3)….The Washington Capitals will be the last of the 29 other NHL teams to play a game against the Jets this season. The two don’t meet until Feb. 19 in game 60 for Winnipeg. They meet for the final time in Winnipeg on Mar. 21 in game 72.