Today in Hockey History, May 4

Throughout the years, May 4 has provided more action in National Hockey League playoff history than a lightsaber duel in space. Multiple hat tricks, the crowing of a champion and broken records are among the big moments on this date.

Hat Trick Heaven

When you think about the possibilities of who scored the fastest playoff hat trick in Edmonton Oilers’ franchise history a lot of great names come to mind. You’d probably guess that it belongs to a Hall of Famer like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri or Paul Coffey and you’d be wrong. Petr Klima set that mark on May 4, 1991, when he scored a natural hat trick during a 5:13 span in the first period of a 7-2 win over the Minnesota North Stars, in Game 2 of the Campbell Conference Final.

On May 9, 2009, the top two players in the NHL put on a show during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Both Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin netted a hat trick in the Washington Capitals 4-3 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals
Surprisingly, Ovechkin has just one career playoff hat trick. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ovechkin completed the first and surprisingly only postseason hat trick of his career with a pair of goals, just 2:29 apart, late in the third period. Crosby’s third goal of the game came in the final minute of regulation, but it was it wasn’t enough to draw even. It was also the first career postseason hat trick for Crosby, who has scored two more since then.

Devin Setoguchi scored the lone playoff hat trick of his career on May 4, 2011. His third goal came in overtime to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, in Game 3 of Western Conference Semifinals. The game-winning goal came moments after he was freed from the penalty box, to make up for taking a penalty in overtime.

A Big Date for the Flyers

On May 4, 1976, Reggie Leach scored in his eighth straight playoff game to help the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Boston Bruins 4-2, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Leach tied the postseason record for the longest goal-scoring streak, held by Maurice Richard, by tying the game at 2-2 in the second period. The win put the Flyers up 3-1 in the series, which they would close out two nights later to advance to their third straight Stanley Cup Final.

Bill Barber had a huge night for the Flyers on May 4, 1980. He scored four goals in a 5-3 win over the North Stars in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. They went on to win the series in five games to advance to another Stanley Cup Final.

The Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3 in overtime, in Game 1 of the Wales Conference Finals, on May 4, 1987. Ilkka Sinisalo scored his second goal of the game at 9:11 of overtime for the game-winner.

Speaking of overtime, the Flyers and Penguins played one of the longest games in NHL history on May 4, 2000. Keith Primeau’s first goal of the playoffs finally ended Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the 12:01 mark of the fifth overtime.

Primeau’s goal came on the 130th shot of the night, sending the fans dedicated enough to sit through the whole game home nearly seven hours after the opening puck drop. This remains the longest game played in the expansion era and the third-longest all-time.

Rangers Make History

On May 4, 1972, the New York Rangers hosted their first Stanley Cup Final game since 1940. Defenseman Brad Park scored two goals and added a pair of assists in 5-2 win over the visiting Bruins. The last time the Rangers were in the Stanley Cup Final, in 1950, their “home” games were played in Toronto because Madison Square Garden was hosting the circus. This would be the only home win of the series for the Rangers, as the Bruins won Game 4 in the Garden and clinched the Cup there as well in Game 6.

Both Messier and Mike Richter made in the Rangers’ 2-0 win over the New Jersey Devils, on May 4, 1997, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Messier skated in his 228th career playoff game, passing Larry Robinson for the most played in league history. His 236 playoff games played remain the third-most behind Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Mark Messier of the New York Rangers
Messier never has to worry about paying for a meal in New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Richter stopped all 32 shots he faced to pick up his eighth career postseason, which, at the time, was the most in Rangers’ team history. He broke the record previously held by Dave Kerr. When he retired, Richter had nine shutouts in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but that record was eventually broken by Henrik Lundqvist, who currently has 10.

Odds & Ends

On May 4, 1969, the Canadiens won their eight straight Stanley Cup Final game over the St. Louis Blues, 2-1, two win their second consecutive championship. The Blues took a 1-0 lead into the third period before Ted Harris and John Ferguson both scored in the first three minutes of the final frame. Serge Savard won the Conn Smythe Trophy, becoming the thirst defenseman to ever win the postseason’s MVP award.

Two years later, the Canadiens were on the short of the stick in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Jim Pappin scored early in the second overtime period to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 road win. The Canadiens went on to win the series in seven games.

Bobby Orr made NHL history on May 4, 1972, when he scored a goal to break the career record for defensemen playoff goals. His 17th postseason tally came in only his 47th playoff game. He broke the mark set by Red Kelly who scored 16 goals in 94 playoff games. His 26 playoff goals are good enough to be tied for 12th place on the all-time list.

Bobby Orr
Orr set the standard for two-way defensemen. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Another Bruins’ milestone was reached on May 4, 1978, when Rick Middleton scored twice, including the 800th goal in franchise playoff history. He also added an assist as the Bruins won 7-5 against the visiting Flyers, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals.

On May 4, 1989, Alexander Mogilny became the first NHL draftee to defect from the Soviet Union to North America in order to play in the league. He when he made his debut with the Buffalo Sabres that fall, he wore number 89, to represent both the year he came to the United States and the place he was selected in the draft. He wore that number his entire career.

The Los Angeles Kings fired head coach Tom Webster on May 4, 1992, after three seasons behind the bench. He was later replaced by Barry Melrose, who took the team to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.

The Vancouver Canucks continued their run to the Stanley Cup Final on May 4, 1994. Pavel Bure scored two goals and Kirk McLean recorded his second shutout of the playoffs in their 3-0 road win against the Dallas Stars, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

On May 4, 1998, the Nashville Predators officially became the NHL’s 27th franchise, when their final terms and conditions were completed by the league. They made their league debut on October 10, 1998, losing 1-0 to the Florida Panthers.

The Capitals beat the Rangers 1-0, in overtime, on May 4, 2013, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Mike Green scored the game’s lone goal eight minutes into the extra session. He became just the sixth defenseman in NHL history to score the overtime goal in a 1-0 playoff game.

Happy Birthday to You

A total of 24 current and former NHL players were born on May 4. The most notable are Leon Rochefort (81), Fred Stanfield (76), Kevin Todd (52), John Madden (47), Matthew Barnaby (47), Kent Huskins (41), Andrew Raycroft (40), Derek Roy (37), Devin Dubnyk (34), James van Riemsdyk (31), Aaron Dell (31) and Joe Hicketts (24).