We’ve been thinking about five-goal games since posting recently about Sergei Fedorov.
Only 62 times in NHL history has a player has notched five goals in a single game. Spectators at the first ever NHL game in 1917 probably thought it would happen more often: Joe Malone of the Montreal Canadiens did it that very night in his club’s 7-4 win over Ottawa. Besides notching the first five-goal game ever, Malone is also still the NHLer with the most of them (five) — and the only player in league history to score seven in a single contest.
The most recent five-goaler was just 13 months ago on March 5th, 2020, when New York’s Mika Zibanejad scored four times in regulation and got the overtime winner in a 6-5 victory over the Capitals.
The quintuplers’ club includes only two other current players. Patrik Laine, recently in the news, scored five for Winnipeg in an 8-4 win over St. Louis in 2018. And future Hall-of-Famer Marián Gáborík, who’s officially under contract with the Lightning but hasn’t played since the Senators put him on long-term injured reserve following back surgery in 2018, scored five for the Minnesota Wild against the Rangers in 2007.
Among other notable fivers are Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, who each hit the five-goal mark four times. Both of them managed an extra-special five-goal outing, too: the five goals Gretzky scored in his 39th game of the 1981-82 season were his 46th-50th, making him the fastest player to the 50-goal mark ever, obliterating the 50-goals-in-50-games record Rocket Richard had set in 1944-45, and which Mike Bossy had been first to equal in only the previous season.
In 1988, Lemieux was the first player to get five in five different ways: one at even strength; one on the power play; one short-handed; one on a penalty shot; and an empty-netter.
There’s also the aforementioned Sergei Fedorov, who on December 26th, 1996 became the first player to get five in a game as his team’s only goal-scorer. And there’s Ian Turnbull, still the only defenseman to light the lamp five times in one game, which he did in 1977.
But who’ll be next? Oilers stars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid seem like good bets, as it was only a few days ago they combined for 11 points against a struggling Senators squad. They’re slated to face the hapless Sens seven more times this season thanks to realignment under coronavirus, which could help them in pursuit of scoring records. But the league is as stacked with high-end offensive talent as it’s ever been, and the infrequency of five-goal games historically shows there’s something of the fluke about them. The next one could bloom unexpectedly almost anywhere, at almost any time.