THIS DATE IN NHL HISTORY: April 12
There’s something about this date that seems to bring out the best in Wayne Gretzky.
1987: The Great One scores a goal and has four assists to help the Edmonton Oilers to a 6-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Smythe Division Semifinals at the Forum in Inglewood, California. The goal and three of the assists come in the third period, when the Oilers score four times to blow open a game that’s even at 2-2 through two periods.
1988: The opponent and venue are different but Gretzky’s numbers are the same: He has a goal and four assists in the Oilers’ 6-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets in Game 5 of the Smythe Division Semifinals. Mark Messier and Jari Kurri each score twice for the Oilers, who eliminate the Jets and go on to win the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in five years.
1991: Gretzky is in his third season with the Kings, but his April 12 magic hasn’t disappeared. He has four assists to power Los Angeles to a 7-4 victory against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 5 of the Smythe Division Semifinals. The four assists give him 200 in Stanley Cup Playoff competition.
1945: Toronto Maple Leafs rookie goalie Frank McCool sets a playoff record with his third consecutive shutout, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Game 3 of the Final. The Red Wings finally solve McCool two nights later, scoring five times, and extend the series to seven games before the Maple Leafs win the Cup.
1960: Maurice Richard scores his NHL-record 82nd (and final) playoff goal in the Montreal Canadiens’ 5-2 victory against the Maple Leafs in Game 3 of the Final. The Canadiens win 4-0 two nights later to complete a sweep and win the Cup for the fifth consecutive season. Richard retires before the 1960-61 season; his record stands until Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders scores his 83rd Stanley Cup goal exactly 26 years later.
1970: The third-year Pittsburgh Penguins become the first team in NHL history to win its first four playoff games. After missing the postseason in their first two seasons, the visiting Penguins complete a four-game sweep of their Quarterfinal series when Michel Briere scores at 8:28 of overtime for a 3-2 victory against the Oakland Seals.
1996: The Jets make the final regular-season home game in franchise history a memorable one. Keith Tkachuk becomes the third player in the Jets’ NHL history to score 50 goals when he hits an empty net with one second remaining, wrapping up a 5-3 victory against the Kings at Winnipeg Arena. The win clinches a playoff berth for the Jets, who move to Arizona after losing their first-round playoff series to Detroit in six games.
On the same night, the Red Wings’ 5-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks is their NHL record 61st of the season, one more than the previous record of 60 set by Montreal in 1976-77. Detroit also ties an NHL record set by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975-76 with its 36th home victory.
2008: Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios steps onto the ice for the 248th playoff game of his career, breaking the NHL record that had belonged to Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy since 2003. The 46-year-old plays 9:41 in the Red Wings’ 4-2 victory against the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena in Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series. He finishes his NHL career holding the playoff records for most seasons (24) and games played (266).