One of the most memorable final days of a regular-season occurred 50 years ago today. In addition, one of the greatest players of all-time said goodbye to the game while a legendary goaltender continued to rewrite the record books.
The Crazy Last Day of 1969-70
The final day of the 1969-70 regular season was one that is still talked about 50 years later. The New York Rangers entered April 5, 1970, trailing the Montreal Canadiens for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. In order for the Rangers to make the playoffs, they needed to pair a win with a Canadiens loss and also outscore them by five goals to earn the tiebreaker.
The with the Rangers leading the Detroit Red Wings 9-3 in the third period, head coach Emile Francis decided to pull his goaltender in order to score more goals, but instead, his team gave up two empty-net goals. They win 9-5 and have to hope for a Canadiens’ loss in which they score four or fewer goals.
All the Canadiens needed to do to earn a playoff berth is to either beat or tie the Chicago Blackhawks or just score five goals no matter what the result is. When the Canadiens fall behind 5-2 in the third period, they play nearly half of the final frame with no goaltender.
The Blackhawks scored seven goals, including five empty-netters, in the third period to win 10-2. Incredibly, this marked the only time between the 1948-49 and 1994-95 seasons where the Canadiens did not take part in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Not only did the Blackhawks set a team record for six goals in a span of 9:13 during that crazy third period, but they also clinched first place in the East Division. The victory completed quite the turnaround as they finished in last place the previous season. They ended up getting swept by the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Semifinals after sweeping the Red Wings in the first round.
Speaking of the Bruins, Bobby Orr picked up an assist in a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in his 1969-70 regular-season finale.
He finished with 33 goals and 120 points, becoming the first defenseman to ever lead the league in scoring.
Stanley Cup Playoff History
On April 5, 1932, Busher Jackson become the first player to ever score three goals in one period of a postseason game. He scored a hat trick during the second period of the Maple Leafs’ 6-4 win over the Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Ted Lindsay and the Red Wings made history on April 5, 1955, when they beat the Canadiens 7-1 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Lindsay scored in the first period before striking three more times in the second period to tie a Final’s record for the most goals in a game and in a single period. The Red Wings set a new record with 15 consecutive wins (including six playoff games), breaking the old mark of 14 wins in a row set by Bruins.
Nine years later, Gordie Howe became the highest career point scorer in Stanley Cup playoff history when his goal, in a 3-2 loss to the Blackhawks, gave him 127 career playoff points. He broke the mark held by Montreal’s Maurice Richard. He finished his legendary career with 160 playoff points, which is now tied for 22nd all-time.
On April 5, 1991, Jaromir Jagr scored in overtime to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 5-4 win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of the Patrick Division Semifinals. The goal was Jagr’s first playoff tally of his career. He would finish with 78, the 11th-most in NHL history.
Hello, Goodbye for Lemieux
Mario Lemieux made his Stanley Cup playoffs debut on April 5, 1989. He picked up an assist in the Penguins 3-1 win over the visiting Rangers. He would go on to score 76 goals and 172 playoff points in his career.
Exactly eight years later, Lemieux formally announced that he would retire after the end of the 1996-97 season. The announcement came following months of speculation. At the time of his announcement, Lemieux led the NHL in scoring with 117 points. He would return to the Penguins in December of 2000 and play through the end of the 2005-06 season.
Brodeur Sets the Records Straight
On April 5, 2002, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur became the first goaltender in NHL history to win 35 games for six consecutive seasons when he beat the Atlanta Thrashers 3-1. He still holds the NHL record with 12 consecutive seasons of at least 30 wins.
Five years later, Brodeur set a new NHL record with his 48th win of the season. He fittingly beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2, to break the record previously held by Flyers’ legend Bernie Parent. Brodeur’s 48 wins were matched by Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals during the 2015-16 season.
Odds & Ends
On April 5, 1984, Bobby Clarke scored his 42nd and final Stanley Cup playoff goal in 6-2 loss to the Capitals in the second game of their first-round series. Washington went on to sweep the best-of-five series in the next game. Nobody has scored more playoff points than Clarke’s 119 in Flyers’ franchise history. His 42 goals are still fifth all-time.
Neal Broten made history on April 5, 1997, by playing his 1,098th game. By taking the ice for the Dallas Stars in Los Angeles, he broke Gordie Roberts record for the most NHL games played by an American-born player. He would play one more game before calling it a career. Since then, 26 American-born players have played more games than Broten.
Happy Birthday to You
Today is the birthday of the St. Louis Blues franchise. The NHL Board of Governors officially granted St. Louis a franchise as part of the league’s new expansion, on April 5, 1966. They would officially begin play in October of 1967.
When the league expanded, they put all the six new teams in one division, while the “Original Six” franchises made up the other. Due to this setup, the Blues made it to the Stanley Cup Final in each of their first three seasons under head coach Scotty Bowman, but were swept in all three series; twice by the Canadiens and once by the Bruins.
The Blues did not return to the Stanley Cup Final until 2019, where they put 51 seasons of heartbreak behind them by winning their first championship in franchise history. They had the most points in the Western Conference when the 2019-20 season was put on hold.
Notable players who are celebrating birthdays today include Gord Donnelly (58), Trevor Letowski (43), Zack Smith (32) and Bo Horvat (25).