The greatest player to ever skate in the National Hockey League set another one of his numerous records on this date. Also, there was a trio of very rare goaltending feats to occur, including one that never happened before. Philadelphia was host to a handful of the many memorable moments to occur on Dec. 6 throughout the decades. Let’s take a look back, shall we?
Another Milestone for Gretzky
When Wayne Gretzky scored during his legendary career, it usually happened in bunches. He had at least two points in 824 of his 1,487 NHL games, by far the most in NHL history. He also had multiple goals in 189 games, including a five-goal night four separate times.
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He had his fourth and final five-goal game on Dec. 6, 1987, during the Edmonton Oilers’ 10-4 win over the Minnesota North Stars. Gretzky scored three times in the first period before adding single goals in the middle and final frames. He also picked up an assist to cap off a six-point night.
Gretzky’s four five-goal games are tied with Mario Lemieux for the most in the modern era. Joe Malone of the Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Bulldogs had five five-goal games between 1917 and 1920.
Roy Gets His Wish
Four days after telling Canadiens team president Ronald Corey that he had played his final game in Montreal, goaltender Patrick Roy’s prediction came true. On Dec. 6, 1995, the Habs traded Roy and captain Mike Keane to the Colorado Avalanche for forwards Andrei Kovalenko and Martin Rucinsky and goaltender Jocelyn Thibault.
Roy went 22-15-1 after arriving in Denver, with a .909 save percentage (SV%) and 2.68 goals-against average (GAA). He posted a .921 SV% and 2.10 GAA in 22 playoff games, leading the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in their first season after relocating from Quebec City. He led them to a second championship in 2001, when he won the Conn Smythe trophy for being the most valuable player of the postseason. Roy played 478 regular-season games for the Avalanche, winning 262 of them.
Kovalenko had 17 goals and 34 points in 51 games for the Canadiens before being traded to the Oilers, just before the start of the 1996-97 season, for Scott Thornton. Rucinsky played 432 games for the Habs, scoring 134 goals and 297 points. Thibault played well in Montreal, but he was never going to be Roy. He was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks early in the 1998-99 season, along with Dave Manson and Brad Brown, for Jeff Hackett, Eric Weinrich, Alain Nasreddine, and a fourth-round draft pick.
Dec. 6, 1992, saw a pair of shutouts that the league had not witnessed in quite some time. First, at Madison Square Garden, John Vanbiesbrouck recorded his 13th career shutout to lead the New York Rangers to a 6-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was the Blueshirts’ first shutout of the Leafs since Mar. 14, 1971.
Meanwhile, at the old Chicago Stadium, Jimmy Waite recorded a shutout to lead the Blackhawks to a 2-0 win over the Canadiens. Chicago’s previous shutout of Montreal occurred on Dec. 1, 1973.
On this date in 2011, Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Mike Murphy became the first goaltender in NHL history to lose a game before allowing a goal in his career. He entered the game to relieve Cam Ward with the Hurricanes down 6-3 to the Calgary Flames in the third period. He stopped both shots he saw before being removed for an extra attacker. Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla scored into the empty net to make it a 7-4.
Things got strange after this as Carolina scored a pair of goals in the final minute of the game to make Iginla’s empty-netter the game-winning goal and hanging Murphy with the loss. He made one more relief appearance where he stopped all seven shots he faced from the Winnipeg Jets. He never appeared in another NHL game after that. His career line reads 0-1-0 with a 1.000 SV% and 0.00 GAA.
An Eventful Date for the Flyers
Reggie Leach scored his seventh career hat trick, including a team-record two goals in 20 seconds on Dec. 6, 1979, as the Philadelphia Flyers scored nine straight goals in a 9-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The win extended the Flyers’ unbeaten streak to 23 games (17-0-6).
Two years later, on Dec. 6, 1979, rookie center Ron Flockhart set a team record with two goals in just eight seconds, as the Flyers beat the St. Louis Blues 8-2.
John LeClair scored his 10th career hat trick on Dec. 6, 2000, as the Flyers tallied three goals in 76 seconds of the third period for a 6-3 win against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning. Rick Tocchet picked up his 500th career assist in the victory.
The Flyers beat the Flames 1-0 in a shootout on Dec. 6, 2005, in the first-ever NHL game to go to a shootout after no goals in regulation or overtime. Mike Richards was the only player to score during the three-round shootout.
A Night to Remember in 1970
An eventful evening on Dec. 6, 1970, began in upstate New York. Roger Crozier was in net for the Buffalo Sabre’s first shutout in franchise history, a 1-0 win over the visiting North Stars. Ron Anderson scored the game’s lone goal.
In Bean Town, Phil Esposito scored the eighth hat trick of his NHL career to lead the Boston Bruins to a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Finally, in Chicago, Bobby Hull opened the scoring nine seconds into the game versus the Maple Leafs. Pit Martin scored his fifth career hat trick as the Blackhawks extended their team-record home unbeaten streak to 14 games (12-0-2) with a 6-2 win.
500 is the Magic Number
The number 500 was the theme of this date for a pair of very successful coaches, both of who had lengthy stops in Toronto. First, on Dec. 6, 2001, Pat Quinn became the seventh head coach in NHL history to win 500 games by leading the Maple Leafs to a 6-3 victory at the Rangers. Gary Roberts picked up his 12th career hat trick in the win to become the sixth player in league history to score 350 goals and accumulate 2,000 penalty minutes.
Mike Babcock also won his 500th game on this date, in 2014, before he was hired in Toronto. His milestone victory also came at the expense of the Rangers as his Red Wings erased a 2-0 deficit to steal a 3-2 win. He was the 19th coach in league history to join the 500-win club and the third who worked behind the bench in Detroit. Scotty Bowman and Bryan Murray are the other two.
Odds & Ends
Stan Mikita scored four goals and an added assist to lead the Blackhawks to a 7-2 win against the Penguins in the first meeting between the two clubs. It was Mikita’s first four-goal game of his career and 10th hat trick.
The Kings set a franchise record on Dec. 6, 1977, by scoring six goals in the second period of their 6-1 win at the St. Louis Blues. Forward Mike Murphy, not the hard-luck goaltender, scored twice in 17 seconds and also picked up an assist in the historic period. However, he didn’t have quite as nice of a day a decade later when he was fired as Kings’ head coach.
Bernie Federko lit the lamp twice on Dec. 6, 1983, to become the third player in Blues history to score 200 goals. He also added an assist in an 8-2 win at the Sabres.
On Dec. 6, 1987, Scott Stevens set a club record with five assists in the Washington Capitals’ 10-3 blowout of the visiting Kings.
Greg Millen picked up his third consecutive shutout on Dec. 6, 1988, with a 3-0 win over the North Stars. He became the first goaltender since Tony Esposito of the Blackhawks, during the 1971-72 season, to post shutouts in three straight starts. He finished the season with six shutouts, the most in the league. To show you how high-scoring the NHL was at this time, despite having the most shutouts, Millen had a 3.38 GAA.
One year later, on Dec. 6, 1989, defenseman Larry Robinson scored his 200th goal for his 900th career point in the Kings’ 5-4 overtime win over the Vancouver Canucks. He became the first player in NHL history to score 200 career goals without having a 20-goal season.
The NHL announced two new franchises on Dec. 6, 1990, as it welcomed in the Lightning and Ottawa Senators. Both teams began play at the start of the 1992-93 season to bring the total of teams up to 24. This was the first venture into the state of Florida for the NHL. The Ottawa franchise took on the name of the Senators, who originally played between 1917 and 1934, winning six Stanley Cups.
Steve Thomas set an NHL record with his 10th career regular-season overtime goal on Dec. 6, 1999, when he scored in extra time to give the Maple Leafs a 4-3 win over the Sabres. He broke the record held by Lemieux. He finished his career with 13 regular-season overtime goals.
One year later, on Dec. 6, 2000, Ron Francis became the fifth player in NHL history to record 1,100 career assists. He picked up the milestone helper during the Hurricane’s 5-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. It was also his 900th game with the Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers franchise.
Happy Birthday to You
There have been 16 former NHL players born on Dec. 6. Among those sharing a birthday today are Garry Lariviere (67), Chris Valentine (60), Matt Niskanen (35), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (35), and the late Pentti Lund and Hank Bassen.
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.