Today in Hockey History: Dec. 27

On this date, one of the greatest players in National Hockey League history made his triumphant return after nearly four years away from the game. Dec. 27 saw plenty of action in Detroit and New York City, while the number 13 was not unlucky after all. So, let’s begin our daily trip through the decades.

Super Mario Returns

Mario Lemieux strapped on a pair of skates and threw on his Pittsburgh Penguins sweater on Dec. 27, 2000, for the first time in 44 months. His last game was on April 26, 1997, before he retired due to health issues and his frustration with how the game was being played.

Lemieux looked like he never missed a beat as he picked up an assist on his very first shift back. Later, he scored a goal and set up another to finish his first game back with three points in a 5-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played the final 43 games of the 2000-01 season and scored 35 goals and 76 points.

This memorable night came 11 years after he put up five points on Dec. 27, 1989, in the Penguins’ 7-4 win over the New York Rangers. Lemieux scored two goals and added three assists to extend his personal point streak to 26 straight games.

More Accomplishments & Awards for Gretzky

On Dec. 27, 1981, Wayne Gretzky was named “Man of the Year” by the Sporting News. Later that night, he scored four goals and assisted on another during the Edmonton Oilers’ 10-3 blowout win over the Los Angeles Kings. The five points gave him 100 on the season in just 38 games, making him the fastest player to hit this mark. This record lasted for two years until he needed just the first 34 games of the 1983-84 season to score 100 points. He also finished this evening with 400 career points in just 197 games.

Gretzky ended the 1980s on Dec 27, 1989, by being named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Decade. He received 307 votes from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Second was legendary quarterback Joe Montana with 85 votes, and NBA great Magic Johnson finished third with 59 votes.

Red Wings Rule the Day

Dec. 27 has been a very eventful date in the history of the Detroit Red Wings. Starting in 1952, when goaltender Glenn Hall made his NHL debut in a 2-2 tie with the Montreal Canadiens. He helped the Red Wings extend their record unbeaten streak to 14 straight games (7-0-7). He played 906 games over an 18-season Hall of Fame career, including playing in a league-record 502 consecutive games with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 1966-67 season was not good for the Red Wings despite having such players as Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Norm Ullman, and Paul Henderson on the roster. They headed into their Dec. 27, 1966 matchup at the Boston Bruins, having lost their last 14 road games. Hall of Fame defenseman Leo Boivin scored two goals, and goaltender Roger Crozier made 41 saves to snap this streak with a 4-4 draw at the Boston Garden.

The Red Wings played their first-ever game at the Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 27, 1979, with a 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. Brian Sutter scored the first goal in the new building to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. Dennis Sobchuk and Dan Bolduc give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes by scoring in the second period. The Blues spoiled the party with third-period tallies by Bernie Federko and Blair Chapman.

One year later, Errol Thompson scored his 200th career goal, late in regulation, to help the Red Wings earn a point in a 4-4 tie at the Oilers.

John Ogrodnick scored a goal and added three assists on Dec. 27, 1986, and Steve Yzerman picked up four helpers in a 5-5 tie at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jimmy Carson scored his seventh career hat trick on Dec. 27, 1989, with three power-play goals in the third period of another tie in Toronto, this one ending in a 7-7 deadlock. His first hat trick with the Red Wings sparked a big comeback after Detroit trailed 7-3 heading into the final frame.

Sergei Fedorov scored two goals and added two assists on Dec. 27, 1993, in the Red Wings 6-0 road victory at the Dallas Stars. Goaltender Tim Cheveldae earned the ninth shutout of his career.

Finally, on Dec. 27, 2001, Brendan Shanahan scored his 20th goal of the season for the 14th time in his career, during the Red Wings 5-1 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets. He scored at least 20 goals in 19 of his 21 NHL seasons, including all nine in Detroit.

Rangers Play the Hits on Broadway

Andy Bathgate had a goal and four assists on Dec. 27, 1962, as the Rangers beat the Bruins 9-3. Earl Ingarfield also had a big night with two goals and three assists. The game was held up for 20 minutes in the third period when Bruins goaltender Eddie Johnston needed stitches after being hit on the nose with a puck.

Jean Ratelle led the way on Dec. 27, 1975, when he scored a goal and added four assists in the Blueshirts’ 9-5 win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres. Steve Vickers and Rod Gilbert each had two goals and two assists as the Rangers began an eight-game winning streak.

Jumping ahead to Dec. 27, 1992, when rookie Alexei Kovalev’s first career hat trick capped off a huge 6-5 comeback win over the Bruins. The Rangers trailed 5-2 with seven minutes to play before Kovalev’s third goal with just 36 seconds left to play proved to be the game-winner in a 6-5 victory.

Alexei Kovalev New York Rangers
Kovalev sparked a big comeback in 1992. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Brian Leetch picked up two assists on Dec. 27, 1996, to become the highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history during the Rangers’ 3-2 win over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. He broke the previous record of 610 points held by Ron Greschner. Leetch is still the team’s all-time leader with 741 assists and is second in overall points with 981, trailing only Gilbert’s 1,021.

13 is a Lucky Number

The number 13 has forever been associated with bad luck, but that wasn’t the case on Dec. 27. In 1979, Charlie Simmer scored twice to lead the Kings to a 3-0 victory against the Quebec Nordiques. His 33rd and 34th goals of the season extend his goal-scoring streak to 13 games in a row. His streak ended in the next game, and it is the longest of the modern era.

The Blue Jackets beat the Bruins 4-3 on Dec. 27, 2016, to win their 13th straight game. Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves on his way to winning the 2017 Vezina Trophy for being voted the best goaltender in the league. Columbus won three more games before ending the second-longest winning streak in NHL history. Only the Penguins’ 17 wins in a row during the 1992-93 season were better.

Let’s Party Like it’s 1999

The final Dec. 27 of the 20th century was quite the evening. Starting in Denver, where the Colorado Avalanche beat the Blues 5-1. Joe Sakic recorded an assist to become the 56th player in league history to score 1,000 career points. He was also the 14th player to score 1,000 points with the same team.

Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
Sakic is a legend in Colorado (THW Archives)

On the opposing side of the ice, Pierre Turgeon assisted on St. Louis’ only goal of the contest. This was his 11th straight game with at least one helper, setting a new franchise record.

Rookie goaltender Roberto Luongo stopped all 34 shots he faced for his first career shutout in the New York Islanders’ 3-0 win against the visiting Bruins. The Islanders got goals from Mats Lindgren, Bill Muckalt, and Niklas Andersson while killing five penalties.

Finally, Mark Recchi scored his 350th career goal as the Philadelphia Flyers won 5-1 at the Calgary Flames. He ended his Hall of Fame career with 577 NHL goals, 232 of which came during his two stints with the Flyers.

Odds & Ends

Reed Larson became the first U.S.-born player in NHL history to have 600 career points on Dec. 27, 1986. The Bruins’ defenseman hit this milestone with an assist in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Kings.

The Oilers recorded their 500th NHL victory on Dec. 27, 1990, with a 4-1 win over the Flames. This gave them an all-time record of 500-295-120, for a winning percentage of .612, the best of any NHL team at the time.

Petr Nedved extended his team-record point-scoring streak to 15 straight games, on Dec 27, 1992, with an assist in the Vancouver Canucks’ 5-2 win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens. He scored 15 goals and 24 points during his 15-game streak.

John Vanbiesbrouck became the second U.S.-born goalie to record 300 NHL victories on Dec. 27, 1997, in the Florida Panthers’ 6-2 win at the Islanders. The Panthers scored five goals during the second period, with Radek Dvorak netting two of them.

John Vanbiesbrouck Florida Panthers
Vanbiesbrouck made history on this date in 1996 (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Trevor Linden became just the fourth player to score 250 goals as a member of the Canucks on Dec. 27, 2001, as he had the game-winning goal in a 4-2 defeat of the Flames.

Malcolm Subban made 27 saves on Dec. 27, 2017, to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-1 road win at the Anaheim Ducks. This extended their point streak to 10 straight games, setting an NHL record for expansion teams. They went 9-0-1 during this run, beating the old mark set by the Panthers in the 1993-94 season, who went 5-0-4 over a stretch of nine games.

Happy Birthday to You

A small but talented group of 15 current and former NHL players were born on this date. The most notable birthday boys are Bryan Smolinski (52), Jay Pandolfo (49), Fernando Pisani (47), Patrick Sharp (42), Paul Stastny (38), Jonathan Marchessault (33), and Frederic Allard (26).

*Originally constructed by Greg Boysen

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