This date in National Hockey League history is etched in stone as it gave us a new all-time leader in goals scored. One of the greatest rivalries in sports was amped up, a legend in the Windy City set a new record and a handful of goaltenders gave it their all. Let’s take our daily trip back in time to relive all the best moments from March 23.
The Great One Becomes the Greatest
Wayne Gretzky has held this date in his heart for 26 years. On March 24, 1994, he scored the 802nd goal of his incredible career, breaking Gordie Howe’s record, which stood since 1980.
Late in the second period, Gretzky received a pass from defenseman Marty McSorley and took advantage of an out-of-position Kirk McLean to make NHL history.
The Los Angeles Kings lost 6-3 to the Vancouver Canucks, but it is hard to believe anyone in attendance at the Great Western Forum that night left disappointed.
“Two things separated Gordie from everyday players,” Gretzky said about his idol. “One, Gordie never thought he was bigger or better than anybody else. He always wanted to prove that he was. He never said to anybody, ‘I’m the best player, I’m the No. 1 guy.’
“And he always had a need to perform each and every game and practice. That’s what separated Gordie Howe from the rest and that’s why he was Gordie Howe. He had a definite ambition that he was going to be the best player every night and every year. That’s how he lived. He never changed.”
Howe had a nice moment on March 23, as well. Back in 1952, he had three goals and an assist in a 7-2 win at the Montreal Canadiens. The hat trick was the seventh of his career and he finished the season with 47 goals, second to Maurice Richard’s 50. Howe finished his career with 19 hat tricks, which seems like a low number considering he scored 801 goals.
A Rivalry Begins
On March 23, 1929, the Boston Bruins beat the Canadiens 3-2 to knock them out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Eddie Shore had the series-clinching goal in the first-ever postseason meeting between these two long-time rivals. The Canadiens would get revenge the following season by beating the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.
Over the years, the Bruins and Canadiens have played 34 times in the Stanley Cup playoffs. While Boston struck first in 1929, the Canadiens have a 25-9 record in their playoff history. They won 18 straight playoff series over the Bruins from 1945-1988. The two teams have played each other in the Stanley Cup Final seven times, with Montreal winning each one.
Stan Becomes the Man
On March 23, 1965, Chicago Blackhawks Hall of Famer Stan Mikita picked up his 59th assist of the season in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers. The historical helper broke the previous NHL single-season assist record of 58, which Jean Beliveau and Andy Bathgate shared.
That record goes to show you just how far the game has progressed. The current record for assists in a single season was set 21 years later by Gretzky when he had 163 during the 1985-86 season. Five players had at least 59 assists when the current NHL season was put on hold earlier this month.
All Good Between the Pipes
Goaltender Gerry Cheevers extended his NHL-record unbeaten streak to 31 games (24-0-7) on March 23, 1972, with the Bruins’ 4-1 win against the New York Rangers. Johnny Bucyk scored two goals and added an assist, while Fred Stanfield and John McKenzie each has three assists.
Martin Brodeur became the first goaltender in New Jersey Devils history to have a 30-win season on March 23, 1996, with a 3-2 overtime victory at the New York Islanders. Eight years later, on March 23, 2004, he became the youngest goaltender in NHL history to win 400 games in a 4-3 overtime win against the Florida Panthers. He was the fastest netminder to join the 400-club, too, needing just 720 games.
On March 23, 2003, Dwayne Roloson recorded his 11th career shutout as the Minnesota Wild beat the Red Wings 4-0. This clinched the Wild’s first-ever berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs, making them the third expansion team in 30 years to make the postseason in their third season of existence.
Andrew Hammond became the first goalie in league history to help his team earn at least one point in each of his first 15 starts on March 23, 2015, with the Ottawa Senators 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks. He started his NHL career going 14-0-1 record with a 1.67 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.
Andrei Vasilevskiy set a Tampa Bay Lightning record on this date in 2021 when he recorded his 12th straight win in a 2-1 victory against the Stars. He made 16 saves and moved past the previous mark of 11 set by Louis Domingue from Nov. 29, 2018 to Feb. 19, 2019.
Odds & Ends
Alf Skinner of the Toronto Arenas scores three goals for the first hat trick by an NHL player in the Stanley Cup Final on March 23, 1918. However, the Arenas lost 6-4 to the Vancouver Millionaires in Game 2 of the first Final involving an NHL team.
In his second career Stanley Cup Playoff game, on March 23, 1944, Maurice Richard scored all five goals in the Canadiens’ 5-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 2 of their Semifinal series. Toe Blake assisted on all five goals.
Bill Mosienko set an NHL record for the fastest three goals by one player on March 23, 1952, when he gets a hat trick in 21 seconds during the Blackhawks’ 7-6 win against the Rangers. This was the fifth and final hat trick of his career.
The Philadelphia Flyers beat the visiting Canadiens 2-1 on March 23, 1975, to end Montreal’s NHL-record 23-game road undefeated streak (14-0-9).
Teemu Selanne scored two goals and had an assist on March 23, 1993, during the Winnipeg Jets’ 5-4 home loss to the Maple Leafs. The three points gave him 111 to break Peter Stastny’s single-season scoring record for rookies set in 1980-81.
Adam Graves set the Rangers’ single-season goals record on March 23, 1994, when he scored his 50th and 51st goals in a 5-3 win at the Oilers. He broke the old record of 50 goals set by Vic Hadfield in 1971-72.
Joe Sakic scored three goals to give him 400 in his NHL career on March 23, 2000, in a 4-2 Colorado Avalanche win at the Phoenix Coyotes. The hat trick made him the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 1,049 points, one ahead of Stastny.
Brendan Shanahan became the 30th player in NHL history to score 500 career goals on March 23, 2002, as the Red Wings beat the Avalanche 2-0. Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hasek earned his 61st career shutout.
The Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane moved past Keith Tkachuk into fourth place among United States-born players with 1,066 points when he recorded two assists in his team’s 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on March 21, 2021.
On that same night, Travis Zajac became the fourth player to score at least 200 goals with the Devils, joining Patrick Elias (408), John MacLean (347) and Bobby Holik (202) when he scored the 4-1 goal in the second period of what eventually was a 4-3 win over the Flyers. He has since retired and finished his NHL career with 203 goals and 552 points in 1,037 games. 202 of those goals were scored in a Devils’ uniform, as he wrapped up his time in the league with the Islanders in 2020-21.
Happy Birthday to You
A huge group of 40 current and former NHL players share a birthday on March 23. The most notable of this bunch are Don Marshall (90), John Tonelli (65), Bengt-Ake Gustafsson (64), Daren Puppa (57), Wayne Presley (57), Gord Murphy (55), Alex Selivanov (51), Michal Neuvirth (34), Erik Haula (31), Dmitri Jaskin (29), Laurent Brossoit (29), Oskar Sundqvist (28), Joel Kiviranta (26) and the late Ted Green.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.