This date might be one of the most significant in the history of the National Hockey League. Some of the most legendary players in the game had huge moments including some playing in their final regular-season games. Records were broken, streaks were continued and something happened for the final time in the NHL.
1970-71 Goes Out with a Bang
The game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens on April 4, 1971, was one that will never be forgotten as multiple records were set and a legend said goodbye.
Phil Esposito scored his seventh hat trick of the season to give him 76 goals in the Bruins’ 7-2 win; both were NHL records at the time. Esposito held the record for most goals in a single season until Wayne Gretzky scored 92 in 1981-82. Mike Bossy broke his record for most hat tricks in a season when he scored nine of them 1980-81.
Esposito’s Hall of Fame teammate, Bobby Orr, picked up two assists in the game to finish the season with an NHL record 102. He also set the all-time mark for NHL defensemen with 37 goals and 139 points. His records for assists and points still stand today.
This contest was also the final regular-season game for Canadiens’ all-time great Jean Beliveau. It was his 1,125 game of his career, all played with Montreal. He went out in style by scoring six goals and 16 points in the playoffs on his way to the 10th Stanley Cup win of his remarkable career.
On that same night, Gordie Howe plays in his 1,687th and final regular-season game with the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden. He announced his retirement at the end of the season and is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.
However, he returned to the ice with the Hartford Whalers of the World Hockey Association. He played seven seasons with the Whalers, including one last season in the NHL, before retiring for good in 1980.
Canadiens Playoff History
On April 4, 1944, Maurice Richard made his Stanley Cup Final debut against the Chicago Blackhawks. He had an assist on the game-winning goal in a 5-1 Canadiens’ victory. He finished the four-game series with five goals and seven points, completing the first of his eight Stanley Cup wins during his Hall of Fame career.
Nine years later, Jacques Plante became the fourth rookie goalie in NHL history to get a shutout in his first career playoff game, when he led the Canadiens to a 3-0 win at Chicago, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals.
The Blackhawks played spoiler on April 4, 1961, when Glenn Hall recorded his second consecutive shutout, and Bobby Hull scored a goal and two assists, in a 3-0 win over the Canadiens in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Final series.
The Blackhawks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, ending Montreal’s streak of five straight Stanley Cup wins. This also marked the first time since 1950 that Canadiens were not a participant in the championship series. The Blackhawks beat the Red Wings to capture their first Stanley Cup since 1938.
On April 4, 1974, Bernie Parent recorded his 12th shutout of the season in a 4-0 Philadelphia Flyers’ win over the New York Islanders. It was also his 72nd start and 46th win of the season, both NHL records.
Exactly two years later, Tony Esposito became the first goaltender in NHL history to record at least 30 wins for seven straight seasons, when the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 7-2.
Ken Dryden played the final regular-season game of his career on April 4, 1979, and he became the first goaltender to win at least 30 games in each of his first seven NHL seasons. Shortly after leading the Canadiens to their fourth straight Stanley Cup, Dryden retires.
On April 4, 1998, Tom Barrasso became the first goaltender in Pittsburgh Penguins’ franchise history to record 200 wins with a 4-1 win at the Tampa Bay Lightning. He is second in team history with 226 wins, 149 behind all-time leader Marc-Andre Fleury.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Marc Denis set an NHL record for most minutes played in one season on April 4, 2003. He finished the season with 4,451 minutes played, breaking the old mark of 4,443 set by Martin Brodeur in 1995-96.
Odds & Ends
On April 4, 1921, Jack Darragh scores twice to lead the Ottawa Senators past the Vancouver Millionaires in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. With the victory, the Senators became the first NHL team ever win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons.
The Blues made their Stanley Cup playoff debut on April 4, 1968, and beat the Flyers 1-0. Jim Roberts scored the only goal, while Glenn Hall recorded the sixth and final playoff shutout of his career. Hall and the Blues made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final that spring before losing to the Canadiens.
Blackhawks forwards Pit Martin and Dick Redmond made postseason history on April 4, 1973. The duo became the first pair of teammates to score hat tricks in the same playoff game during a 7-1 win over the Blues. Hall of Famer Stan Mikita was credited with five assists in the blowout victory.
On April 4, 1986, Gretzky had three assists in a 9-3 Edmonton Oilers’ loss at Calgary Flames. He finished the season with 214 points, breaking his own single-season record of 212 points set in 1981-82.
The following year, Denis Potvin scored two goals for the Islanders to become the first defenseman, and 21st player overall, to score 1,000 career points. When he retires following the 1987-88 season, he leads all defensemen with 1,052 points. He has since fallen down to seventh all-time among blueliners.
On April 4, 1990, Larry Robinson takes the ice for the Los Angeles Kings against the Flames in their first-round playoff series. This marks the 18th straight season in which Robinson appears in the Stanley Cup playoffs, setting an NHL record.
He would make the playoffs in each of his final two seasons, finishing his 20-season career never missing the postseason. Nicklas Lindstrom of the Red Wings matched this streak with his final playoff appearance in 2012.
On that same evening, Mark Messier set a new Stanley Cup playoff record with his 11th career shorthanded goal. Messier broke the record of his former Oilers teammate, Gretzky. He would add three more shorthanded playoff goals before calling it a career and still holds the record with 14.
Brad Fast played in one career NHL game for the Carolina Hurricanes, but he left his mark on the record books on April 3, 2004. He beat Florida Panthers’ goaltender Roberto Luongo for his one and only NHL goal which forced overtime.
Neither team scored in the extra time and the game ended in a 6-6 tie, the final tie in league history. The 2004-05 season was canceled due to the owners’ lockout and when the NHL returned to play in the fall of 2005, the shootout was adopted, eliminating ties from the game.
Happy Birthday to You
Dale Hawerchuk is celebrating his 57th birthday today. The Hall of Famer made an immediate impact for the Winnipeg Jets. He became the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points in a season when he put up 103 in 1981-82. He finished his career with 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 games with the Jets, Buffalo Sabres, Blues and Flyers.
In addition to playing in the final tie in NHL history on this date, Luongo is turning 41 today. The future Hall of Fame goaltender is third all-time with 489 career wins before retiring after the 2018-18 season.
Other notable players celebrating birthdays today include Yanic Perreault (49), Kevin Weekes (45) and Cam Barker (34).