Today in Hockey History: Jan. 21

Two of the greatest goal-scorers in the history of the National Hockey League had milestone moments on this date. Also, new franchise highs were established, memorable All-Star Games were played, and San Jose had a very busy date. Finally, the hockey world lost another great. It is time to fire up the THW time machine for our daily trip through the decades.

Dionne & Gretzky Climb the Rankings

Wayne Gretzky is the greatest offensive player in the history of the NHL, and Marcel Dionne is not far behind him. Both of these Hall of Fame talents made their mark on the game on this date.

On Jan. 21, 1985, Dionne scored in the first period, but the Los Angeles Kings blew a 7-3 lead and lost to Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers 8-7. His goal was the 611th of his career, putting him ahead of Chicago Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull for third place on NHL’s all-time goals list.

Four years later, on Jan. 21, 1989, Gretzky had a goal and three assists during the Kings’ 5-4 loss at the Hartford Whalers. This gave him 1,771 points and made him the second-highest scorer in league history, passing Dionne. Gretzky needed just 743 games to move ahead of Dionne, who scored his 1,770 points in 1,343 games. His performance on this night gave Gretzky 100 points for the 10th straight season, setting a new NHL record.

New Franchise Leaders

Defenseman Harry Howell became the first player to appear in 1,000 games in a New York Rangers uniform on Jan. 21, 1967, in a 6-2 loss at the Boston Bruins. He is still the all-time leader with 1,160 games played for the team. Brian Leetch and Rod Gilbert are the only other players to appear in 1,000 games with the Rangers.

Brian Sutter became the second player in St. Louis Blues’ franchise history to score 250 goals, on Jan. 21, 1985, in a 6-3 road win at the Detroit Red Wings.

Kevin Lowe became the first player to appear in 1,000 games in an Oilers’ uniform on Jan. 21, 1997, when he played in a 4-4 tie with the Rangers. He was the 27th NHL player to appear in 1,000 games with one team.

Kevin Lowe Edmonton Oilers
Lowe is the only player to play 1,000 games in Edmonton. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

One year later, Guy Hebert became the first goaltender to win 100 games with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as he beat the visiting Florida Panthers 8-3.

Nicklas Lidstrom became the Red Wings’ all-time leader in games played by a defenseman on Jan. 21, 2004, when he appeared in his 984th game, breaking the previous record set by Marcel Pronovost. He had an assist in a 2-2 tie with the Mighty Ducks.

Daniel Sedin lit the lamp twice on Jan. 21, 2016, to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-2 road win at the Boston Bruins. His two goals gave him 348 career goals and put him ahead of Markus Naslund for the most in franchise history.

Darryl Sutter won his 194th game behind the Calgary Flames’ bench on Jan. 21, 2023, passing Bob Johnson for the most wins in Flames history. He was fired in the offseason after the Flames missed the playoffs.

We Know the Way to San Jose

Defenseman Doug Wilson scored his 800th NHL point on Jan. 21, 1992, in the San Jose Sharks’ 9-2 loss versus the Oilers. The recently-inducted Hall of Famer scored the first 779 points of his career with the Blackhawks.

On Jan. 21, 1995, rookie Jeff Friesen scored his first NHL goal. His shorthanded tally was the game-winner, in a 3-2 win over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. Three years later, he became the Sharks’ all-time leading goal scorer in a 7-1 win over the visiting Calgary Flames. He scored his 77th goal with the team to put him ahead of Pat Falloon for the most in San Jose’s brief franchise history.

Related – Sharks’ Best Players in Franchise History

The Sharks played their 1,000th regular-season game in team history on Jan. 21, 2004, and came away with a 4-2 win at the Phoenix Coyotes.

Joe Thornton moved up the league’s scoring list on Jan. 21, 2018, during the Sharks’ 6-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. His goal and assists gave him 1,426 points, which put him ahead of Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier for 16th place on the all-time scoring list.

A Cup of Hot Coffey

Jan. 21 has been a big day for Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey. First, on this date in 1989, he scored a goal and added two assists to help the Pittsburgh Penguins beat his former team, the Oilers, 7-4. This gave him 800 points in his career. This milestone was overshadowed as Mario Lemieux factored in all seven Penguins’ goals by scoring two and setting up the other five.

Eight years later, on Jan. 21, 1997, Coffey set up two goals for the Philadelphia Flyers to move past Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL’s all-time assists list with 1,050 in his career. His fellow blueliner, Michel Petit, made his Flyers debut, setting a league record for playing for his ninth team in a 3-3 tie with the Dallas Stars.

The Greats Shine at the All-Star Game

On Jan. 21, 1969, Howe appeared in his 20th All-Star Game in 21 NHL seasons. He played on a line with Hull and Phil Esposito but surprisingly did not record a point as East and West Divisions tied 3-3 at the Montreal Forum. This was the first All-Star Game played in the divisional format. Before this, the defending Stanley Cup champions played a team of the best players from the rest of the league. Howe’s Red Wings teammate Frank Mahovlich won Most Valuable Player honors by scoring two goals.

Bobby Hull Gordie Howe
Hull and Howe were linemates at the 1969 All-Star Game. (THW Archives)

Penguins center Syl Apps scored twice and won the All-Star Game MVP on Jan. 21, 1975, as the Wales Conference beat the Campbell Conference 7-1 in another game played in Montreal.

Lemieux scored a first-period hat trick on Jan. 21, 1990, and finished with four goals to lead the Wales Conference to a 12-7 win against Campbell Conference in front of his hometown fans in Pittsburgh. He won the All-Star Game MVP for a third time, becoming the first NHL player to do so.

Hockey World Loses Another Great

On Jan. 21, 2022, the Islanders announced immediately following their 4-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes that Hall-of-Famer Clark Gillies had passed away. The four-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time All-Star was only 67 years old. He retired after the 1987-88 season with 319 goals and 697 points in 958 games. Part of the Islanders dynasty years between 1979 and 1983 that saw the franchise win four straight Cups, he also had 47 goals and 93 points in 159 playoff games.

Clark Gillies
MONTREAL, CANADA – CIRCA 1983: Clark Gillies #9 of the New York Islanders sets up a screen in front of the net during a game against the Montreal Canadiens Circa 1983 at the Montreal Forum in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Drafted fourth overall in 1974, Gillies ended up playing 12 years with the Islanders before finishing his career with the Sabres in 1987-88, but by that time his production had drastically reduced. Most of his glory came with the Islanders where he had six 30-goal seasons, including a career-high 91 points in 1978-79. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

Odds & Ends

The Kenora Thistles won their only Stanley Cup championship on Jan. 21, 1907, beating the Montreal Wanderers 8-6.

The Bruins beat the Rangers 14-3 on Jan. 21, 1945, and set a new NHL record for the fastest four goals by one team. Bill Thomas, Frank Mario (twice), and Ken Smith all scored within a span of 1:20 of the second period to lead the offensive explosion.

Howe picked up his 1,100th career point on Jan. 21, 1962, with a goal in the Red Wings’ 5-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. This milestone came in his 1,023rd NHL game.

Goaltender Tony Esposito won his team-record eighth straight game on Jan. 21, 1981, to lead the Blackhawks to a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Chicago’s eight consecutive victories also tied a team record set during the 1971-72 season.

Denis Potvin scored the game-winning goal on Jan. 21, 1986, to give the New York Islanders a 7-3 victory over the Flyers. This was his 270th career goal, tying him with Bruins legend Bobby Orr for the most in league history scored by a defenseman.

Denis Potvin New York Islanders
Potvin was one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mats Sundin played in his second game for the Maple Leafs on Jan. 21, 1995, after being acquired from the Quebec Nordiques during the previous offseason. He scored his first goal with the team in a 3-2 loss to the visiting Sharks. He became Toronto’s all-time leading goal scorer with 420 goals over the next 13 seasons.

That same night, rookie Paul Kariya scored his first NHL goal playing in his second game, as the Mighty Ducks earned a 4-3 road victory at the Winnipeg Jets. This was the first of the future Hall of Famer’s 402 career goals.

Rookie goaltender Patrick Lalime continued his record-setting unbeaten streak on Jan. 21, 1997, leading the Penguins to a win 4-2 win over the Flames. His record improved to 14-0-2, the longest streak without a loss to start a career in NHL history.

Mike Milbury stepped down as head coach of the Islanders on Jan. 21, 1999, and named assistant coach Bill Stewart as his replacement. He did remain on as the team’s general manager.

Later that evening, in his first game against his former team, goaltender Jocelyn Thibault made 33 saves to lead the Blackhawks to a 3-0 win over the Canadiens to pick up his 10th career shutout.

The Penguins and Blackhawks made history on Jan. 21, 2001, when they played the first NHL game that featured two European-born head coaches. Ivan Hlinka led his Penguins to a 4-0 win in Chicago over Alpo Suhonen’s Blackhawks. Alexei Kovalev recorded his 250th career assist, and goaltender Garth Snow recorded his 12th career shutout in the victory.

On that same night in Anaheim, Joe Sakic picked up two assists to give him 700 in his NHL career as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Mighty Ducks 4-2.

Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
Sakic picked up his 700th career assist on this date. (THW Archives)

Jose Theodore became the first goaltender in Canadiens history to record an assist in two straight games on Jan. 21, 2002, during a 7-5 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Jim Dowd and Richard Park set the NHL record for the fastest two goals by one team on Jan. 21, 2004, in the Minnesota Wild’s 4-2 win over the Blackhawks. Dowd beat Chicago goaltender Craig Anderson to give the Wild a 3-2 lead at 19:44 of the third period. The Blackhawks pulled Anderson for an extra attacker and allowed Park to score in the vacated net just three seconds later.

The Nashville Predators beat the Avalanche 4-1 on Jan. 21, 2019, to give head coach Peter Laviolette his 600th career coaching win. He became the 20th head coach in league history to win 600 games. He joined John Tortorella as the only U.S.-born members in the 600-win club. The 2018-19 season saw three head coaches pick up their 600th victory; Tortorella, Laviolette, and Claude Julien.

On Jan. 21, 2022, Colton Parayko became the first defenseman in St. Louis Blues history to score on a penalty shot and only the 34th in NHL history. He did it in a win, too, as his team beat up the Seattle Kraken 5-0.

Now former Winnipeg Jet Blake Wheeler notched his 900th point in the NHL on Jan. 21, 2023, in a 5-1 win over the Senators. He had three points in the game.

In that same win, Nikolaj Ehlers scored his 167th goal passing Frans Nielsen for the most goals by a Danish player in NHL history.

Happy Birthday to You

Canadiens goaltending legend Georges Vezina headlines a group of 30 current and former NHL players born on this date. Other notable members of this bunch are Moe Mantha (63), Brian Bradley (59), Ulf Dahlen (57), Doug Weight (53), Andrei Zyuzin (46), Dany Heatley (43), Ryan Suter (39), Jonathan Quick (38), Darren Helm (37), Brayden McNabb (33), Tom Kuhnhackl (32), Josh Brown (30), K’Andre Miller (24) and Kirby Dach (23).

*Originally constructed by Greg Boysen

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