Today in Hockey History: April 4

This date might be one of the most significant in the history of the National Hockey League. Many legendary 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. Let’s begin our daily trip back in time to relive all the best April 4 has to offer.

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 in 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 the 1,125th 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.

Jean Beliveau
Beliveau was a legend in Montreal. (THW Archives)

On that same night, Gordie Howe played 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 was 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 Semifinals.

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The Blackhawks played spoiler on April 4, 1961, when Glenn Hall recorded his second consecutive shutout. Bobby Hull scored a goal and two assists in a 3-0 win over the Canadiens in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinal 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.

Goaltending History

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.

Bernie Parent Philadelphia Flyers 1975
Parent was as good as it got in the 1970s. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

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 retired.

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.

Carolina Hurricanes’ netminder Petr Mrazek became the sixth in the NHL’s modern era (since 1943-44) to get a shutout in each of his first three wins of the season when he posted a 1-0 blanking of the Dallas Stars on April 4, 2021.

On April 4, 2023, Jet Greaves set a record for the most saves in a Blue Jackets debut and became the seventh goalie with at least 46 saves in an NHL debut since 1955-56, when shots on goal began being tracked. He made 46 saves in a losing cause as the Blue Jackets fell 4-2 to the Maple Leafs.

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 Final. With the victory, the Senators became the first NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons.  

Four teams made their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts on April 4, 1968. The Blues beat the Flyers 1-0, with Jim Roberts scoring the only goal of the night and Glenn Hall picking up his sixth and final postseason shutout. Hall and the Blues made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, where they were swept by the Canadiens.

The Los Angeles Kings hosted the Minnesota North Stars in another matchup between two Stanly Cup Playoff rookies. Eddie Joyal and Dave Balon had the first postseason goals in Kings and Stars franchise history, respectively. Bill White’s early third-period goal proved to be the game-winner in Los Angeles’ 2-1 victory.

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.

The California Seals played their final game on April 4, 1976, and beat the Kings 5-2. Jim Moxey’s empty-net goal was the final goal in Seals’ history as they relocated and became the Cleveland Barons the following season. This was the last NHL game played in the San Francisco Bay Area until the San Jose Sharks join the league in 1991

On April 4, 1986, Gretzky had three assists in a 9-3 Edmonton Oilers’ loss at the 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 took the ice for the 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.

Larry Robinson, Montreal Canadiens
Robinson never missed the playoffs in his 20-season career. (THW Archives)

He made 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.

Auston Matthews scored his 25th goal of the season on April 4, 2021 in a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames to become the third United States-born player in NHL history to score 25 goals in each of his first five seasons in the league. He joined Bobby Carpenter and Mike Modano in the feat.

In that same game, longtime Flames defenceman and now Maple Leaf Mark Giordano, recorded his 500th point in the NHL when he assisted on Joakim Nordstrom’s first-period goal. He became the ninth player and third defenseman in franchise history to reach that particular summit. Sam Bennett, who now suits up for the Panthers, also played in his 400th game.

Related: How Mark Giordano Became an All-Time Great Calgary Flame

To continue the milestones, Jakob Chychrun joined in the fun when he recorded a hat trick in the Coyotes’ 3-2 overtime win over the Ducks to become the third defenseman in NHL history to score all three of his team’s goals with the third coming in overtime. He joined Eric Desjardins (Canadiens, Game 1 of 1993 Stanley Cup Final) and Cam Fowler (Ducks, Nov. 4, 2018) in the feat.

Emerging two-way star Aleksander Barkov made more history on this night in 2021 when he posted the 116th even-strength goal of his career in a 3-0 shutout over the Blue Jackets. With the goal, he passed Olli Jokinen for second on the Panthers’ all-time list.

Joining Barkov in his franchise’s record books was veteran Travis Zajac, who tied Bobby Holik for third place in Devils’ history with 202 goals when he scored a goal in his team’s 5-4 loss to the Capitals. The now-retired forward ended his career behind only Patrik Elias (408) and John MacLean (347) on the Devils’ all-time goals list.

Matthews recorded his fourth hat trick of the 2021-22 season on April 4, 2022, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, becoming the fifth player in Maple Leafs history with at least four hat tricks in a season. He joined Reg Noble (1917-18), Babe Dye (1922-23, 1924-25), Darryl Sittler (1980-81), and Rick Vaive (1983-84) in the feat.

Speaking of hat tricks, a year later, Dawson Mercer recorded his first and in the process became the fourth player in Devils history to score a hat trick at the age of 21 or younger, joining Jack Hughes, Scott Gomez, and Holik.

The Seattle Kraken hit 94 points on this day in 2023 and passed the 2018-19 Vegas Golden Knights (93 points) for the most points by an expansion team in its second season since the Original Six era (1967-68). Jordan Eberle led the way with a goal and an assist as the Kraken beat the Canucks 5-2.

Finally, Nathan MacKinnon was his usual dominant self on April 4, 2023, when he had two goals and an assist against the Sharks to reach 100 points for the first time in his NHL career. He also had the winner in overtime to become the Avalanche’s all-time leader with 10 overtime goals.

Happy Birthday to You

In addition to playing in the final tie in NHL history on this date, Luongo is turning 45 today. The Hall of Fame goaltender is fourth all-time with 489 career wins before retiring after the 2018-19 season.

Florida Panthers Roberto Luongo
Happy Birthday to one of the best goaltenders of his generation. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach, File)

Other notable players celebrating birthdays today include Blake Dunlop (70), Yanic Perreault (53), Kevin Weekes (49), Cam Barker (38), Alex Biega (36), Andrew Mangiapane (28), and the late Hall-of-Famer Dale Hawerchuk.

*Originally constructed by Greg Boysen