Memories of one of the most unforgettable evenings of Lanny McDonald’s NHL career came rushing back.
Watching highlights of Edmonton Oilers centre Sam Gagner’s incredible eight-point performance Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Calgary Flames Hall of Famer was taken back to a record night during his days with the Toronto Maple Leafs, when linemate Darryl Sittler posted six goals and four assists for the first 10-point game in league history.
“I thought I should have been first star that night with four points,” McDonald joked. “It was a fun time.”
The record still stands, although Gagner took a good run at it.
“Quite a night in Edmonton,” McDonald said. “That was unbelievable — holy smokes.
“He was probably hoping Chicago would score a couple so they would have to pull the goalie or something.”
With high-scoring games a rarity these days, an empty net for an extended period of time might be the only way Sittler’s record ever falls.
“I always said if Gretzky didn’t do it and Lemieux didn’t do it, I’m not sure it would happen,” McDonald said. “Lo and behold, here comes Sam Gagner — eight for eight.”
Factoring in each of the Oilers goals in the 8-4 win over the Hawks, Gagner joined a dozen eight-point NHL performances. Two by Wayne Gretzky, a pair by Mario Lemieux and one by each of Maurice Richard, Bert Olmstead, Tom Bladon, Bryan Trottier, Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny, Paul Coffey and Bernie Nicholls.
The Sittler benchmark set Feb. 7, 1976, during an 11-4 Leafs victory over the Boston Bruins, still stands as one of McDonald’s favourite hockey memories.
“What are the chances, first of all, that you would get to be a part of a night like that?” McDonald asks rhetorically. “Few and far between. The fact that Darryl and I are still best friends today, it’s pretty cool.
“It was one of those nights where you couldn’t wait to get back on the ice because every time Darryl went on the ice, you knew something was gonna happen. It was kind of craziness.
“I think he scored two from behind the net. One of his favourite plays — and it drove Roger Neilson crazy — he’d get his big butt up against the boards so he could look out and throw passes back out front. He was facing the play all the time. Roger always wanted his centre icemen to be the first guy back. Darryl said, ‘We’ll be fine. That’s Errol Thompson’s job or Lanny’s job. My job’s to set them up.’
“Well, he not only set them up, he scored like crazy that night. Six goals — God.”
Thompson finished with three assists. McDonald scored the game’s first goal and added three helpers.
Sittler, however, was wearing magical mitts that night.
Before he potted a natural hat-trick in the third period to finish things off in style, his teammates were clamouring for a chance to get out there with him instead of usual linemates McDonald and Thompson.
“Guys were on the bench giggling and laughing,” recalled McDonald. “At that time, you only had 10 forwards. Sometimes they’d dress 11 forwards and five defence.
“Everyone wanted to be on the ice every time he went on the ice.
“Errol and I were telling them, ‘No, he’s ours!’”
On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane