Five goals. Five different ways. One game.
On Dec. 31, 1988, Mario Lemieux rang in the new year like no NHLer ever has, notching five tallies in five different situations during an 8-6 Penguins win over the Devils. The Magnificent One scored at even strength, on the power play, short-handed, on a penalty shot and capped off the historical night by putting one into an empty net. He’s the only player to complete the feat, and this weekend it was announced as the greatest moment in NHL history at the NHL 100 Classic in Ottawa.
Lost in the five goals was that Lemieux added three assists and finished the contest with eight points, factoring in on every single Penguins tally in the game.
It was already the second time that season Super Mario netted eight points in a game, and he did it again later that campaign to finish 1988-89 with an absurd three 8-point games to his name. Of the 13 players to notch an 8-pack in one contest, Lemieux (3) along with Wayne Gretzky (2) are the only players to reach the mark multiple times.
The fan vote determining the NHL’s greatest moment started on Oct. 18 as a 64-entry bracket, with Lemieux facing some exceptionally tough competition. Mario’s big night beat out the New York Islanders’ 4th consecutive Cup victory (1983), Darryl Sittler’s 10-point game in 1976, and Gretzky’s 50 goals in 39 games (1981) before defeating Bobby Orr’s iconic 1970 Cup-winning goal.
Lemieux possessed size and strength like nothing the league had seen before. Combining those unique physical gifts with incredible hands, amazing vision, deceptive speed and unteachable goal-scoring prowess.
The Hockey Hall of Famer’s terrific career included two Stanley Cups, nine All-Star selections, two Conn Smythe Trophies, six Art Ross Trophies and three Hart Trophies as league MVP. He ranks eighth all-time in points (1723) and tenth in goals (690) despite only playing 915 career games — 400-700 less than everyone ahead of him on those all-time lists.
No. 66 ranks only behind Mike Bossy with a career 0.75 goals-per-game average and is also second in career points-per-game (1.88). Lemieux is a consensus all-time top-five player, always entrenched firmly in the conversation alongside Orr, Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard.
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