Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back back to Dec. 31, 1988 when Pittsburgh Penguins center Mario Lemieux became the first — and only — player to score five goals, five different ways in the same game.
It was 31 years ago Tuesday that Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux accomplished what was probably his most incredible single-game achievement: Scoring five goals in every possible way during an 8-6 win over the New Jersey Devils.
His goals: An even-strength goal, a power play goal, a shorthanded goal, a penalty shot goal (which was also while the Penguins were shorthanded), and an empty-net goal.
They are all in the featured video above. Notice the commentary just before the first goal that says the Penguins really need a “big game” from Lemieux. He delivered.
It was the first five-goal game of his career, while he also finished with eight total points, factoring into every single goal the Penguins scored. It was his second eight-point game of the season. He recorded at least five points in a game 12 different times, including three seven-point games. He finished the season with 199 points (while missing four games) but only finished second in the Hart Trophy voting behind Wayne Gretzky who had just finished his first season with the Los Angeles Kings. It remains one of the most controversial MVP votes in league history (read about that here).
Some other random facts from that game
- His five goals gave him 43 for the season. It was only the Penguins’ 38th game.
- Not crazy enough? His eight points put him over the 100-point mark for the season. In game 38. It was the third-fastest climb to 100 points in league history, behind only a couple of early 1980s Wayne Gretzky seasons.
- His first three goals (even-strength, power play, shorthanded) came in the game’s first 10 minutes.
- His shorthanded goal was already his seventh of the season. He would go on to score an NHL record (that still stands today) 13 shorthanded goals that season. He scored 10 the year before.
- An underrated and completely overlooked performance in this game is that Kirk Muller, the No. 2 pick in the 1984 draft, just one spot behind Lemieux, had five points. His team lost by two goals. The 1980s were really something.
- Speaking of, this was a classic 1980s game in the sense that there were 14 total goals and 68 total penalty minutes between the two teams. There were no fighting majors in the game, but New Jersey’s Steve Rooney was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for cross-checking late in the first period.
This just seems to be one of those accomplishments that will be nearly impossible to duplicate in the modern game.
Consider the fact that any five-goal performances is almost unheard of now.
There have only been 11 five-goal games in the NHL since this performance by Lemieux, and two of those games belong to Lemieux himself.
There have only been three since 1996 (Marian Gaborik in 2007, Johan Franzen in 2011, and Patrik Laine in 2018).
Since the start of the 1979-80 season, there have only been 134 instances where a player recorded a hat trick with at least one even-strength goal, one shorthanded goal, and one power play goal. There is also the fact that penalties are down across the league from where they used to be (negating the number of power play and shorthanded chances players get) and penalty shots are now extremely rare.
It is probably the one feat in NHL history that you can say with probably 99.9 percent certainty that it will never be accomplished again.
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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.