Dec. 21 has been a very eventful date in National Hockey League history. Two NHL records were broken, memories were made in Los Angeles, 250 was a magic number and one of the greatest goaltenders in league history performed well on this date. It’s time for our daily look at today in hockey history.
New All-Time Highs
Bobby Orr picked up an assist, on Dec. 21, 1972, in the Boston Bruins’ 8-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. This gave him 541 career points, which were the most ever by an NHL defenseman. He needed just 423 games to break Doug Harvey’s record, who scored 540 points in 1,113 contests. Orr’s 915 career points are now 11th all-time for blueliners.
Martin Brodeur made 35 saves, on Dec. 21, 2009, in the New Jersey Devils’ 4-0 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was the 104th shutout of his Hall of Fame, putting him one ahead of Terry Sawchuk for the most in NHL history. He retired with 125 shutouts and is also the league’s all-time leader with 1,266 games played and 691 wins.
A Crowning Day in LA
Butch Goring took a two-minute minor for slashing in the first period, on Dec. 21, 1977, which was his only penalty of the entire 1977-78 season. After he got out of the penalty box, he picked up two assists in the Los Angeles Kings’ 8-1 win over the Minnesota North Stars.
Dave Taylor scored a goal and added an assist, on Dec. 21, 1988, to reach 900 points in his career. Bernie Nicholls and Luc Robitaille each scored a goal and had three assists in another win over the North Stars, this time 8-6.
On Dec. 21, 1991, Wayne Gretzky scored a goal in a 5-2 loss to the visiting Detroit Red Wings. This was the 732nd goal of his legendary career, moving him ahead of former Kings’ great Marcel Dionne for second all-time in league history. This put Gordie Howe and his 801 goals in Gretzky’s sites.
250 is the Magic Number
Tim Kerr became the sixth player to score 250 goals as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, on Dec. 21, 1986, in a 7-6 win over the St. Louis Blues. He hit this milestone by scoring his 13th career hat trick, which was a new team record.
Mario Lemieux scored his 15th career hat trick to become the third 250-goal scorer in Penguins history, on Dec. 21, 1988. He also had two assists in a lopsided 6-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On that same night, Dave Christian scored his 250th NHL goal as the Washington Capitals won 4-3 at the Chicago Blackhawks. He became the only second U.S.-born player to join the 250-goal club.
John Vanbiesbrouck recorded his 250th NHL career victory, on Dec. 21, 1995, in the Florida Panthers’ 6-1 defeat of the visiting Winnipeg Jets. He became the 25th goaltender in league history to get 250 wins.
A Busy Day for the Dominator
Dominik Hasek was a huge fan of playing on Dec. 21. In 1996, he became the fourth goalie to record 100 victories with the Buffalo Sabres, when he led them to a 3-1 victory at the Ottawa Senators.
One year later, on Dec. 21, 1997, Hasek recorded his second consecutive shutout by beating the New York Rangers 2-0. In doing so, he became the first European-born netminder to record 25 shutouts in the NHL.
He earned another shutout, on Dec. 21, 2001, leading the Red Wings to a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks. His 58th career shutout ended the Sharks’ 10-game unbeaten streak. Hasek won a career-high 41 games during the 2001-02 season, which ended with his first Stanley Cup championship.
Penguins’ Coaching Milestones
Eddie Johnston became Pittsburgh’s all-time winningest coach with his 96th career victory, on Dec. 21, 1993, as the Penguins beat the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning 8-3. He passed Scotty Bowman with his career record of 96-135-42. He finished his second run with the team in 1997 with 232 wins. He is still second in franchise history behind Dan Bylsma, who won 252 games between 2009 and 2014.
On Dec. 21, 2015, Mike Sullivan earned his first victory as Penguins’ head coach with a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blues Jackets. Phil Kessel scored twice to give his new coach his first win in his fifth game behind the bench. Even though things got off to a slow start for Sullivan, he led them to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017.
Odds & Ends
Paul Thompson became the first player to ever score a goal on his brother, on Dec. 21, 1937. He spoiled Tiny Thompson’s shutout bid by beating him with just nine seconds left to play. Tiny and Bruins got the last laugh with a 2-1 win over Paul and his Blackhawks.
The Red Wings took their first charter flight in team history, on Dec. 21, 1938, when they flew from New York to Chicago for a game.
Speaking of the Red Wings, on Dec. 21, 1952, Ted Lindsay became the first player in team history to score 200 goals. His goal extended Detroit’s team-record undefeated streak to 12 straight games (7-0-5) with a 5-2 win at the Rangers.
The Sabres beat the Capitals 14-2, on Dec. 21, 1975, setting a new franchise record for the most goals in a single game. They exploded for eight goals in the third period and outshot Washington 50-16. Rick Martin led the way with four goals and an assist. Danny Gare also had a five-point night with a goal and four helpers. Fred Stanfield chipped in with a goal and three assists.
17-year-old Pat LaFontaine scored a goal for the Verdun Juniors, on Dec. 21, 1982, to tie Guy Lafleur’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) record of at least one point in 40 straight games. LaFontaine scored 104 goals and 234 points in his one and only season in the QMJHL, beating out Lemieux for the scoring title.
Alexander Mogilny tied the league record for the fastest goal from the start of the game, on Dec. 21, 1991, when he scored five seconds after the puck dropped in the Sabres’ 4-1 win at the Maple Leafs. He tied the record originally set by Doug Smail in 1981 and matched by Bryan Trottier in 1984.
Scott Stevens became the Devils’ all-time leader in assists by a defenseman, on Dec. 21, 2002, when he picked his 318th helper in a 5-3 win over the visiting Dallas Stars. He broke the previous record of 317 held by Bruce Driver.
Goaltender Rob Zepp made his NHL debut, on Dec. 21, 2014, and earned a 4-3 win over the Jets thanks to Jakub Voracek’s overtime goal. At age 33, he became the oldest netminder to win his league debut since a 41-year-old Hugh Lehman did so with the Blackhawks way back in 1926
Ken Hitchcock joined an elite club, on Dec 21, 2017, when his Stars beat the Blackhawks 4-0. He became just the third head coach in NHL history to win 800 games, joining Bowman and Joel Quenneville, who was behind the opposing bench on this night.
Happy Birthday to You
Dec. 21 has seen the birth of 14 current and former NHL players over the years. The most successful of this lot are Joe Kocur (56), Jamie Oleksiak (28), Malcolm Subban (27), Alex Iafallo (27), Cody Ceci (27), Charlie McAvoy (23) and the late Steve Montador.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.