April 12 has been a very eventful date in National Hockey League history. The greatest player in the game was one of many future Hall of Famers who made his mark on this date. Numerous Stanley Cup records were set and broken, as well.
All the Assists for Gretzky
There was something about this date that turned Wayne Gretzky into an assist machine. On April 12, 1987, Gretzky had a goal and four assists to help the Edmonton Oilers beat the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Smythe Division Semifinals. The two teams entered the final period tied at 2-2 before Gretzky scored a goal and assisted on three others as the Oilers win 6-3.
Exactly 365 days later, Gretzky once again scores a goal and adds four helpers in an Oilers’ playoff win. This time he did it against the Winnipeg Jets to knock them out of the postseason. Oilers go on to win their fourth Stanley Cup in five years, the final one of Gretzky’s career.
On April 12, 1991, now with the Kings, Gretzky doesn’t get the goal, but he picks up another four assists in a 7-4 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The Great One became the first player to rack up 200 playoff assists. He retired with 260 and is still the only player to have at least 200 postseason assists.
A Hull of a Day for Brett
Gretzky wasn’t the only Hall of Famer to put up big numbers on this date. Brett Hull had a handful of memorable moments too. On April 12, 1988, Hull scored his sixth goal in five playoff games, and his third game-winner, as the St. Louis Blues eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks from the postseason. He scored seven goals and nine points in 10 playoff games that spring.
On April 12, 1991, Hull takes part in one of the wildest Stanley Cup playoff games in recent memory. He scores a pair of goals and adds two assists while Adam Oates racks up a hat trick in a 6-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Game 5 of the Norris Division Semifinals between these two rivals set NHL records for most penalties in a playoff game (66), most penalties by a team in one game (33 each), most penalty minutes (PIM) in a game (298) and most PIM by one team (Red Wings: 152).
One year later, Hull scored his 300th career NHL goal, and 500th career point, to lead the Blues to a 1-1 tie with the Minnesota North Stars. The only two players in NHL history to score 300 goals faster than Hull were Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Stanley Cup Playoff Memories
On April 12, 1938, the Blackhawks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 to win the Stanley Cup. They skated eight American-born players on their way to the second championship in franchise history. The Blackhawks would not win another Stanley Cup until 1961.
Maple Leafs rookie goaltender Frank McCool made history on April 12, 1945, as he shuts out the Red Wings for their straight game of the Stanley Cup Final. Detroit stormed back with five goals in Game 4 and won three straight games to force a seventh and deciding game, which Toronto won.
On April 12, 1955, Dick Irvin became the first head coach in NHL history to win 100 career playoff games when the Montreal Canadiens beat the Red Wings 6-3 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. This was his final playoff win and he is still just one of four coaches to hit the 100-win plateau in the postseason. Scotty Bowman (223), Al Arbour (123) and Joel Quenneville (118) are the others.
Maurice Richard scored his 82nd and final Stanley Cup playoff goal on April 12, 1960. The historic goal game in the Canadiens’ 5-2 victory over the Maple Leafs in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Richard’s 82 postseason goals were an NHL record that lasted exactly 26 years until Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders scored his 83rd career playoff goal on April 12, 1986.
The Pittsburgh Penguins became the first team in league history to win its first four playoff games on April 12, 1970. Michel Briere scored in overtime to complete a four-game sweep of the Oakland Seals in their first-ever Stanley Cup playoff series. This would be their only series win until 1989.
On April 12, 1979, a Maple Leafs duo set a Stanley Cup Playoff record for the fastest three goals by a team. Darryl Sittler struck for a pair of goals and Ron Ellis scored a third within 23 seconds in the first period of a 7-4 win over the Atlanta Flames in Game 2 of their Preliminary Round series.
When the Canadiens swept the Boston Bruins with a 4-2 win on April 12, 1987, they picked up their 18th straight playoff series win over their rivals. The Bruins finally ended this streak the following postseason, beating the Canadiens in a playoff series for the first time since 1946.
Chris Chelios set an NHL record when he took the ice for the Red Wings on April 12, 2008. Detroit’s 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals was his 248th career playoff career. He broke the previous record for playoff games played which was held by goaltender Patrick Roy. His 266 Stanley Cup playoff games are still the most in NHL history as is qualifying for the postseason 24 different times.
Odds & Ends
On April 12, 1991, the San Jose Sharks named George Kingston as their first head coach. The announcement came six months before the start of the Sharks’ first NHL season. Kingston is fired after just two seasons which saw the Sharks go 28–129–7.
Mark Recchi set a Philadelphia Flyers team record on April 12, 1993, with his 120th point of the season in a 1-0 win over the New York Rangers. Recchi broke Bobby Clarke’s record of 119 set in 1975-76. He finished the season with 123 points, which is still the best single-season in franchise history.
On April 12, 1994, Mike Modano became the first player in Dallas Stars history to score 50 goals in a season in a 9-5 win against the Blues. Dino Ciccarelli and Brian Bellows both had 50-goal seasons while the franchise called Minnesota home, but Modano remains the only 50-goal scorer since the move to Texas.
The original Jets played their final regular-season game in Winnipeg on April 12. 1996. Keith Tkachuk became the third player in the team’s NHL history to score 50 goals in a season with an empty-net goal in a 5-3 victory over the Kings. The Jets are bounced out of the Stanley Cup playoffs in six games by the Red Wings before relocating to Arizona.
Speaking of the 1995-96 Red Wings, on this same night, they beat the Blackhawks for their record-setting 61st win of the season. They broke the previous record of 60 wins set by the 1976-77 Canadiens and also tied the Flyers for the most home wins in a season with 36. Their magnificent season was ended by the Colorado Avalanche in a memorable six-game Western Conference Finals.
On April 12, 2002, goaltender Sean Burke set a Phoenix Coyotes record for most wins in a season by beating the Minnesota Wild 7-1. Burke broke the mark of 32 set by Nikolai Khabibulin in 1998-99. His 33 wins remain the fourth-most in franchise history.
In the same game, Teppo Numminen became the first defenseman in Coyotes franchise history to get 400 career assists. His 426 helpers are still the team record for blueliners and are the fourth-most among all players in Jets/Coyotes history.
Happy Birthday to You
There are 31 current and former NHL players who are sharing birthdays today. Among the impressive group are Adam Graves (52), Roman Hamrlik (46), Tommy Wingels (32), Kevin Poulin (30), Magnus Paajarvi (29), Torey Krug (29) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (27).