Today in Hockey History: Jan. 4

Jan. 4 has been quite the busy day in National Hockey League history. The greatest player of them all had four huge nights for three different teams. Some of his fellow members of the Hockey Hall of Fame joined him in having big-time performances. It is time for a daily trip through time as we look at all the big moments on the ice from this date.

The Great One Dazzles

Wayne Gretzky had more big days in his legendary career than we can count and Jan. 4 was no exception. He left his mark four different times, for three different teams, over the span of 13 years on this date.

He had one of the best games of his career, on Jan. 4, 1984, as he put up eight points in the Edmonton Oilers’ 12-8 win over the Minnesota North Stars. Gretzky scored four goals and assisted on four others for the second eight-point game of his career. The first came just a few weeks earlier, in November, against the New Jersey Devils. The four helpers extended his NHL-record assist streak to 17 straight games. This streak ended in his next game after putting up 38 assists in the previous 17.

Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers
Gretzky loved playing on Jan. 4. (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

The Great One wasn’t the only Oiler to have a huge game on this night. Mark Messier set a franchise record by picking up four assists in a span of 9:52. Jarri Kuri scored the seventh hat trick of his career to do his part. The 20 combined goals made this the highest-scoring game in league history.

Two years later, on Jan. 4, 1986, Gretzky had two assists in Edmonton’s 4-3 win over the Hartford Whalers. This made him the first NHL player to ever have seven consecutive 100-point seasons.

On Jan. 4, 1994, now a member of the Los Angeles Kings, he racked up four assists to lead the way in a 5-1 win against the visiting Quebec Nordiques.

Finally, on Jan. 4, 1997, Gretzky had another four-assist game to help the New York Rangers beat the Ottawa Senators 6-4 at Madison Square Garden. All of his helpers came in the second period, tying a team record for the most in a single period.

Super Mario Powers Up

Gretzky was far from the only all-time great to enjoy playing on this date. His counterpart in Pittsburgh, Mario Lemieux, had a pair of big Jan. 4 performances.

Lemieux had two assists, on this date in 1990, to help the Penguins beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. This pushed his point streak to 29 consecutive games, breaking his own team record that he set during the 1985-86 season. This streak continued until Feb. 11, lasting 46 games, the second-longest such streak in NHL history.

Seven years later, on Jan. 4, 1997, Lemieux scored two goals and added three assists in the Penguins’ 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. His linemate, Jaromir Jagr, had a goal and an assist to give him 600 career points.

A Memorable Date for the Maple Leafs

Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower earned his 100th NHL victory, on Jan. 4, 1961, in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 6-4 home win versus the Detroit Red Wings. He made 25 saves as Frank Mahovlich led the offense with a goal and four assists. Bower is still second in franchise history with 219 wins, only behind Turk Broda’s 304.  

Norm Ullman scored three times to give him 350 career NHL, on Jan. 4, 1969, as the Maple Leafs won 5-3 over the visiting Rangers. He became the eighth player in NHL history to join the 350-goal club. The first 324 of those goals came with the Red Wings. He scored another 166 during his eight seasons with the Leafs.

Borje Salming became the first European-born player to appear in 1,000 career games, on Jan. 4, 1998, in the Maple Leafs’ 7-7 tie with the Canucks. He picked up two assists on the night as he was also the fifth player to play 1,000 with Toronto.

Borge Salming
Salming had a tremendous career in Toronto. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Maple Leafs beat the San Jose Sharks, on Jan. 4, 2018, 3-2 in a shootout. Tyler Bozak’s goal in the sixth round of the shootout gave Toronto their first home win over the Sharks in nearly 16 years. Since the previous win, on Jan. 29, 2002, they went 0-5-2-1 against San Jose.

On Your Six

Guy Lafleur scored his fifth career hat trick and added three assists, on Jan. 4, 1975, to help the Montreal Canadiens wallop the Washington Capitals 10-0. In addition to Lafleur’s six points, the Habs got a goal and four assists from Guy Lapointe.

Guy Lafleur #10 of the Montreal Canadiens
Lafleur won plenty of hardware with Montreal. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

On Jan. 4, 1987, Paul Lawless became the first member of the Whalers to score six points in a game since they joined the NHL in 1979. He set a club record with two goals and four assists in an 8-3 win over the Maple Leafs.

Radek Bonk scored his first career hat trick and added 3 assists for a career-high six points, on Jan. 4, 2001, in the Senators 8-3 win against the Lightning. His 6 points matched the franchise record for points in a single game set by Dan Quinn in 1995. Marian Hossa became the first player in franchise history to record five assists in a single game.

Odds & Ends

The Red Wings had a huge offensive explosion, on Jan. 4, 1942, as they beat the Canadiens 10-0. Syd Howe led the way with two goals and three assists while Ken Kilrea set up five goals. Detroit had nine players with at least two points. The 10 unanswered goals are still the most Montreal has ever surrendered in one game.

Bobby Orr scored a goal, on Jan. 4, 1973, in the Boston Bruins’ 4-2 to the St. Louis Blues. The goal was the 163rd of his career as he passed Red Kelly for the most scored in league history by a defenseman. Orr scored his 163 goals in 428 games, while Kelly needed 846 contests to set his record of 162.

The Bruins had better luck one year later, when they roughed up the North Stars 8-0. They set a new team record with seven power-play goals on the night. Phil Esposito had a goal and four assists while goaltender Ken Broderick earned the only shutout of his NHL career.

Bobby Orr Phil Esposito Boston Bruins
Orr and Esposito both had big nights for the Bruins on this date. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Bobby Clarke scored two goals and an assist, on Jan. 4, 1976, to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 5-3 victory against the Islanders. Bill Barber had three assists as the Flyers began an NHL-record 20-game home winning streak at the Spectrum.

Gilbert Perreault had a goal and an assist to give him 1,200 career points, on Jan. 5, as the Buffalo Sabres handled the visiting Penguins 7-2.

Steve Yzerman extended his franchise-record 28-game point streak, on Jan. 4, 1989, with two assists in a 4-2 win against the Blues. Gerard Gallant scored his fourth career hat trick and added an assist to lead the offense. Yzerman’s streak was snapped two nights later in a scoreless tie with the Canucks. He had 29 goals and 65 points during his incredible 28-game run that began on Nov. 1, 1988.

On that same night, rookie Brian Leetch had a goal and an assist as the Rangers and Capitals skated to a 3-3 draw. He had 13 of the Rangers 54 shots on goal, which set a new NHL record for the most shots on goal by a defenseman in one game.

Mike Gartner had a goal and an assist, on Jan. 4, 1992, in the Rangers’ 6-4 road loss to the rival Devils. This made him the 33rd player in league history to score 1,000 career points.

The Blues set a new NHL record, on Jan. 4, 2007, when they didn’t allow a first-period goal for the 12th straight game. In fact, on this night, they didn’t allow any goals in a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. They broke the previous record of 11 games set by the 1974 Kings. Their streak was ended just over two minutes into their next game against the Nashville Predators.

Jarome Iginla scored a power-play goal, on Jan. 4, 2016, to help the Colorado Avalanche beat the Kings 4-1. This made him the 19th player in league history to put up 600 goals in his career. He retired at the end of the 2016-17 season with 625 goals during his 20-season career. The first 525 of those goals came with the Calgary Flames while the last 100 were split between the Penguins, Bruins, Avalanche and Kings.

Happy Birthday to You

A group of 22 current and former NHL players are sharing birthdays today. The most notable of the bunch are Greg de Vries (48), Jiri Hudler (37), Patrick Russell (28), Seth Griffith (28) and Nico Hischier (22).


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