The greatest player to ever strap on a pair of skates had himself three big nights on this date in National Hockey League history. Both teams in New York had busy nights, while a slew of Hockey Hall of Famers hit personal milestones. Let’s strap into the THW time machine and take a trip back through all the best moments Feb. 4 has provided.
Another Great Day for Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky scored a goal and added three assists, on Feb. 4, 1997, in the Edmonton Oilers’ 6-5 road win at the Minnesota North Stars. This gave him 50 goals for the eighth straight season. The streak ended the following season when injuries limited him to just 64 games, but he still scored 40 goals and 149 points.
Two years later, on Feb. 4, 1989, he scored his first hat trick as a member of the Los Angeles Kings in a 5-3 win versus the Buffalo Sabres. He earned his 44th career hat trick when he was awarded an empty-net goal in the final seconds after it was ruled that a Sabres player intentionally knocked the net off its moorings.
A decade later, on Feb. 4, 1999, Gretzky lit the lamp in the New York Rangers 8-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. This was the 1,071st goal of his professional career, including the regular season and playoffs in both the NHL and World Hockey Association. This tied him with Gordie Howe for the most total professional goals scored.
Historic Date for the Rangers
The Great One’s goal in 1999 was far from the only memorable moment for the Rangers on this date. On Feb. 4, 1940, the Blueshirts extended their team-record home winning streak to 11 straight games with a 9-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Dutch Hiller led the scoring with two goals and two assists, while goaltender Dave Kerr recorded his 47th career shutout.
The start of the game between the Rangers and the Boston Bruins on Feb. 4, 1961, was delayed for about two hours because the visitors got to Boston Garden late due to a major snowstorm. Despite dressing just 13 skaters, Andy Hebenton and Harry Howell scored a pair of goals 34 seconds apart. Goaltender Gump Worsley took it from there with 28 saves in a 2-1 victory.
Netminder Gilles Villemure was the hero on Feb. 4, 1971, making 30 saves in a 1-0 road win at the Detroit Red Wings. Rod Gilbert scored the only goal in the last 1-0 victory on the road the Rangers would have until Feb. 27, 1993.
Two years later, Villemure earned his 10th career shutout as he beat the Atlanta Flames 6-0. Pete Stemkowski was the offensive star by scoring his fourth and final career hat trick to extend the Rangers team-record winning streak to eight games. Bobby Rousseau hit a personal milestone by picking up his 400th career assist.
On Feb. 4, 1989, the great Guy Lafleur returned to Montreal for the first time since 1984. Playing for the Rangers, the former Canadiens legend had two goals and an assist. However, the home team scored a 7-5 win behind Shayne Corson’s first career hat trick with the Habs.
The Rangers retired Mike Richter’s No. 35 on Feb. 4, 2004, in a pre-game ceremony before a 4-3 loss to the visiting Minnesota Wild. When he retired in 2003, he was the franchise’s all-time leader for goaltenders, with 666 games played and 301 wins. He has since been passed by Henrik Lundqvist.
Mika Zibanejad had a goal and an assist on Feb. 4, 2019, during a 4-3 overtime loss to the Kings. He became the first player in Rangers history and the ninth player overall to have a point on at least 10 consecutive goals for his team.
Islanders Won’t be Upstaged
Not to be undone, the New York Islanders had their share of memories on this date. In 1973, the Islanders lost to the Sabres 5-1 in Buffalo. No penalties were called, making this the first penalty-free game both teams had ever played.
Rookie Mike Bossy recorded the first hat trick of his NHL career on Feb. 4, 1978, in a 6-1 win over the Washington Capitals. He retired with 39 hat tricks, which were the most in league history at the time.
Bryan Trottier scored the game-winning goal in overtime on Feb. 4, 1986, as the Wales Conference beat the Campbell Conference 4-3 in the NHL All-Star Game. Oilers’ goaltender Grant Fuhr, who held the Wales Conference scoreless for 31 minutes, captured the MVP award in a game hosted by the Hartford Whalers.
Brad Lauer scored the 5,000th goal in Islanders’ team history on Feb. 4, 1989, which triggered a four-goal rally in a 5-3 come-from-behind victory over the Whalers.
Hall of Fame Milestones
Terry Sawchuk became the first goaltender in NHL history to earn 400 career victories on Feb. 4. 1965, as the Toronto Maple Leafs won 5-2 in Montreal.
On Feb. 4, 1973, Bobby Clarke became the second player in Philadelphia Flyers’ history to score 100 goals with the team. He also had an assist in a 2-2 tie with the Bruins.
Brett Hull scored twice, including his 200th career goal, and picked up two assists on Feb. 4, 1991, as the St. Louis Blues lost 6-5 in overtime at the Maple Leafs.
Dominik Hasek appeared in his 190th career NHL game on Feb. 4, 1996, to set a new record for European-born goaltenders. He broke the previous record held by Arturs Irbe in the Sabres’ 5-2 loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.
Mario Lemieux’s empty-net goal on Feb. 4, 1997, gave him 600 in his career as he iced the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 6-4 win over the Canucks. He joined the 600-club in just 719 games, just one more than Gretzky took to reach this milestone. He also became the first-ever 600-goal scorer who spent his entire career with one team.
One year later, Martin Brodeur became the first goaltender to win 150 games in a New Jersey Devils uniform with a 2-0 victory over the visiting Ottawa Senators.
Jaromir Jagr scored a natural hat trick in the Capitals’ 5-1 win over the Lightning on Feb. 4, 2003, to give him 500 goals in his career. He became the 33rd player to score 500 NHL goals, and he reached 30 goals for the 12th time in 13 seasons. Exactly 13 years later, on Feb. 4, 2016, he became just the sixth player in league history to record 1,100 assists. His milestone came by setting up Brandon Pirri’s goal in the Florida Panthers’ 6-3 defeat of the Red Wings.
Odds & Ends
Frank Calder, the first NHL president, died of a heart attack on this date in 1943. Red Dutton replaced him on an interim basis. Two of the most prestigious trophies in hockey are now named after Calder. The NHL’s rookie of the year receives the Calder Trophy while the American Hockey League champions raise the Calder Cup at the end of every season.
Former number one overall pick Bobby Smith had a goal and an assist on Feb. 4, 1988, in the Canadiens’ 7-3 loss to the Bruins. This gave him 800 points in his career and 350 with Montreal.
Reggie Lemelin became the 32nd goaltender in league history to accrue 200 victories on Feb. 4, 1990, as he led the Bruins to a 3-2 win at the Quebec Nordiques.
Tim Cheveldae set a new Red Wings’ team record for goaltenders with his fifth assist of the season on Feb. 4, 1991, in a 6-4 loss to the Kings. He broke the old record held by Al Smith.
Tomas Sandstrom scored twice to give him 300 goals in his NHL career on Feb. 4, 1995, in the Penguins’ 6-3 win over the Lightning. He also had two assists as Pittsburgh started the shortened 1994-95 season with seven straight victories.
One year later, on Feb. 4, 1996, a pair of Chicago Blackhawks hit personal milestones. Brent Sutter scored his 350th career goal while defenseman Gary Suter recorded his 500th NHL assist in a 4-1 road win at the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Todd Bertuzzi tied a Canucks’ franchise record on Feb. 4, 2002, by picking up an assist in his 15th straight game during a 4-2 win over the visiting Phoenix Coyotes.
Defenseman Greg de Vries became just the second player in NHL history to score overtime winners in two straight games on Feb. 4, 2003, to give the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 road win at the Bruins.
On Feb. 4, 2010, the Devils acquired forward Ilya Kovalchuk, Anssi Salmela, and a second-round draft pick (Jon Merrill) from the Atlanta Thrashers for Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, as well as a first and second-round pick. Both of those picks were eventually traded to the Blackhawks, who used them to select Kevin Hayes and Justin Holl. Kovalchuk scored 89 goals and 201 points in 222 games for the Devils before retiring in 2013.
The Flyers earned their 2000th win in franchise history on Feb. 4, 2019, by beating the Canucks 2-1. Rookie goaltender Carter Hart won his seventh straight game by making 41 saves. He became just the fourth goaltender under 21 to put together a winning streak of at least seven games.
Happy Birthday to You
Hall of Famer Denis Savard, who turns 61 today, headlines a group of 32 current and former NHL players born on this date. The most notable among them are Gary Smith (78), Joe Sacco (53), Dallas Drake (53), Manny Legace (49), Jerred Smithson (43), Lee Stempniak (39), Brad Richardson (37), Mark Letestu (37), Darnell Nurse (27) and Liam Foudy (22).
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.