April 18 is a very historic date as the greatest player in National Hockey League history laced up his skates for the final time. In addition to a legend saying goodbye, there was a whole slew of Stanley Cup playoff firsts that happened on this date.
The Great One Says Goodbye
When the New York Rangers took the ice for their regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 18, 1999, they were already eliminated from a Stanley Cup playoff berth. The sellout crowd inside of the Madison Square Garden knew the old arena was going to host another historic moment.
Wayne Gretzky put on an NHL uniform for the final time in his legendary career on this date. The Rangers held a pregame ceremony to honor the Great One which included a video message from Gordie Howe. He picked up the 2,875th and final point of his career with an assist on the Rangers’ lone goal in a 2-1 overtime loss.
Gretzky is the league’s all-time leading scorer with 1,016 goals and 3,239 points in 1,695 combined games between the regular season and playoffs. The 15-time All-Star won four Stanley Cups, 10 Art Ross Trophies, nine Hart Trophies and the Conn Smythe Trophy twice.
Among some of his numerous records are the most 40-goal seasons (12), the longest point streak (51 games), the most multi-point games (824), the most shorthanded goals (73), the most hat tricks (50) and the most postseason game-winning goals (24).
Stanley Cup Playoff Firsts
On April 18, 1942, the Toronto Maple Leafs completed the greatest comeback in postseason history when they beat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Leafs stormed back to win the championship after losing the first three games of the series. They remain the only team to ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win the Stanley Cup.
The Montreal Canadiens became the first team to ever win four straight Stanley Cups on April 18, 1959. Bernie Geoffrion had two goals in the 5-3 victory over the Maple Leafs to become just the second player in NHL history to have 50 playoff goals.
Dave Keon made history on April 18, 1963, when he became the first player to ever score two shorthanded goals in a Stanley Cup playoff game. His two goals were the difference in the Maple Leafs’ 3-1 win over the Red Wings to give Toronto their second straight championship.
On April 18, 1968, the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars both advanced to the Stanley Cup Semifinals by winning the first playoff series in their franchises’ young history. The Blues beat the North Stars in seven games to reach the Stanley Cup Final, where they were swept by the Canadiens.
Goaltender Billy Smith recorded his first career playoff shutout on April 18, 1979. Mike Bossy scored at 2:31 of overtime to lead the New York Islanders to a 1-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals.
Exactly one year later, Bryan Trottier scored his first and only overtime goal of his career to give the Islanders a 4-3 victory over the Rangers in Game 3 of the Patrick Division Finals.
On April 18, 1990, Edmonton Oilers goaltender Bill Ranford recorded his first career playoff shutout in a 7-0 win over the visiting Los Angeles Kings, in Game 1 of the Smythe Division Finals. This was the first of four postseason shutouts in Ranford’s career, with three of them for the Oilers.
The San Jose Sharks won their first playoff game in franchise history, on April 18, 1994, when they upset the Red Wings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Sharks jumped out to 3-0 in the first period, but the Red Wings drew even at 4-4. 18-year-old defenseman Vlastimil Kroupa scored the game-winning goal late in regulation. It was the only Stanley Cup playoff goal of his career. The Sharks became the first team since the 1975 Islanders to win their NHL postseason debut.
Two years later, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Philadelphia Flyers, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, for their first postseason win in franchise history. Brian Bellows scored nine minutes into overtime for the victory.
On April 18, 1997, Larry Murphy became the first defenseman to score playoff goals for five different NHL teams, as the Red Wings beat the visiting Blues in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarter-Finals. The Hall of Famer also scored playoff goals for the Washington Capitals, Penguins, Kings and North Stars.
Patrick Roy became the first goaltender in NHL history to play in 200 Stanley Cup playoff games on April 18, 2001.
He made 22 saves in the Colorado Avalanche’s 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks for his 125th postseason victory. Roy holds the all-time record for goaltenders with 247 games played and 151 wins.
Odds & Ends
On April 18, 1987, the Capitals and Islanders play Game 7 of the Patrick Division Semifinals, a game that became known as the “Easter Epic.” Kelly Hrudy made a record 73 saves that kept the game alive into the wee hours of Easter Sunday morning. At the 8:47 mark of the fourth overtime, Pat LaFontaine scores from just inside the blue line to give the Islanders a 3-2 win.
When the Penguins beat the New Jersey Devils 6-3, on April 18. 1993, they tied an NHL record with their 12th consecutive playoff victory. The record was set by the Oilers between the 1984 and 1985 postseasons. Mario Lemieux scored two goals and added two assists in the win.
On April 18, 1999, Joel Quenneville picked up his 100th career NHL coaching victory, when the Blues beat the Kings 3-2, in the final game of the 1998-99 regular season. Quenneville became the 5th Blues coach to win 100 games. He has done a lot more winning over the past 21 years as Scotty Bowman is the only head coach in NHL history with more victories than Quenneville’s 925.
Sidney Crosby made Penguins history on April 18, 2018, with a goal and an assist in 5-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of their first-round series. He finished the night with 173 career playoff points, passing Lemieux for the most in franchise history.
Happy Birthday to You
There are 17 players celebrating birthdays today who have skated in at least one NHL game. The biggest names of the bunch include Al Sims (67), Valeri Kamensky (54), Oleg Petrov (49), Scott Hartnell (38), Cody McCormick (37), Anthony Peluso (31), Stephen Johns (28) and Mika Zibanejad (27).