Kirk Muller

PHT Time Machine: Mario Lemieux’s 5 goals, 5 different ways

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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.

For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Muller signs two-year deal to be assistant in St. Louis (Updated: official)

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It didn’t take Kirk Muller long to land back on his feet.

According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Muller has signed a two-year deal to be an assistant coach under Ken Hitchcock with the St. Louis Blues. Muller was only out of work for eight days as he was fired as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes on May 5. In three seasons as the Hurricanes coach, he had a 80-80-27 record.

Muller is familiar with Hitchcock as he played for him with the Dallas Stars in the final four years of his playing career and was a key veteran on the Stars’ Stanley Cup Final team in 2000.

Muller joins a Blues coaching staff that already includes Brad Shaw and Ray Bennett. Another set of eyes never really hurt anyone and he has served as an assistant once before with the Montreal Canadiens back in 2006.

Update: It’s official.

‘We are excited to add Kirk to our staff,” said GM Doug Armstrong in a release. “He was a Stanley Cup-winning player, and as a coach, has shown excellent communication skills, and the ability to relate to both young and veteran players.”

Muller believes Skinner can be a 40-goal scorer

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Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner has been a secret force for them this season. While the ‘Canes won’t be going to the playoffs, Skinner leads the team with 31 goals — the first time he’s broken 30 since his rookie season.

After staying mostly healthy this season, the 21-year-old showed what he’s capable of and coach Kirk Muller believes he’s capable of scoring 40 someday as Chip Alexander of the News & Observer shares.

“He’s had a few stretches where he didn’t have production and I think because he’s young that affects guys who score goals,” Muller said. “When you’re not scoring, you evaluate your game that way, and I think through maturity you learn that when you don’t score you work to keep the other things in your game. You just keep level-headed.

“When he does that and gets a little more consistent, he has the capability of scoring 40.”

When Skinner has been healthy, he’s been dynamic. He had a sophomore slump in his second season on top of dealing with concussion problems that held him to just 20 goals, but two seasons later now he’s back to being the player we saw in his first season. If he can be a 40-goal guy (he scored 50 in junior hockey), he’ll capture the hearts of Carolina fans all over again.

Elias credits Henrique for another strong season

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New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias has had a long career of putting up big numbers and to this point this season he’s put up 51 points.

For Elias it’s the 12th time in his career he’s had 50 or more points. He gives a lot of credit for his production to Adam Henrique as Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger shares.

“It’s also helped me by playing with Rico for the majority of the games and having something constant on the line,” Elias said. “Look at my first 40 games. I had two or three breaks in between because of injuries. You always fall out of rhythm, so that played a role. And I played with a different guy almost every night.”

Consistency and having a guy who’s also having a strong season in Henrique makes a lot of sense for how well Elias has done. Having Czech countryman Jaromir Jagr in the locker room has probably helped as well.

Elias is the most prolific scorer in Devils history. Hitting 50-plus points 12 times in his career is five more times than either Kirk Muller or John MacLean did it. Henrique is following the 37-year-old nicely with 43 of his own points and a team-leading 25 goals.

If ever there was a guy for the Devils to keep Henrique glued to it’s Elias.

Canes’ Skinner (upper-body) could return Friday

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Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner has been out of their lineup since October 24, but he might return to action as soon as tomorrow.

Skinner skated at practice on Thursday in a yellow non-contact jersey, but coach Kirk Muller believes he could play against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday as Chip Alexander of the News & Observer reports.

“When he feels he’s ready to go he’ll be a player,” Muller said.

Muller added that they’re getting players back and there will be some decisions to make. The Hurricanes have won three of their last four games and their one loss came in a shootout to the Minnesota Wild. Skinner’s return would almost certainly mean he’s back in, but the question moves to who would come out to make room for him.