Chalk it up as one of those odd statistical occurrences. Throughout the entirety of the 2018-19 campaign, only four players had four-goal games, and it wasn't until the final weeks of the campaign that John Tavares' four-goal outing made him the fourth player to do so. But through the first two weeks of the 2019-20 season, there were a number of players who couldn't miss.
First, it was Anthony Mantha scoring four in the Detroit Red Wings' second game of the season. Then, two days later, everything James Neal touched turn to gold and he King Midas'd his way to a four-goal outing in his third game as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Not to be outdone, less than one week later, Boston Bruins sharpshooter David Pastrnak blasted home four against the Anaheim Ducks. And though it took a while – another month, if you believe it – before there was a fourth player with four-goal contest, there has indeed been another. Jack Eichel put up a four-spot against in a Buffalo Sabres victory in mid-November.
As special as those games were, though, not a single one was special enough to land on the list of the greatest single-game performances of the decade. This list is reserved for only the best of the best, the type of one-off outings we still talk about to this day, the kind that are seared into the minds of those who witnessed it live. And these are those 10 performances:
10. Craig Anderson – Colorado Avalanche vs. San Jose Sharks, April 18, 2010
The Avalanche had no business winning Game 3 of their first-round post-season series against the Sharks. None whatsoever. San Jose outshot Colorado 51-17 across the nearly 61 minutes that were played before an errant backhand pass by Dan Boyle ricocheted off Ryan O’Reilly’s stick and past Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov. But O’Reilly’s winner was only possible because Anderson stopped every single shot he faced, leading to the lasting image of the then-Avalanche netminder’s toothy grin as the Colorado crowd went berserk. The 51 saves are the most in a post-season shutout this decade.
9. Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, June 15, 2015
Keith’s performance in Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup final was the exclamation point on his Conn Smythe Trophy-winning performance. After what had been a brilliant post-season, Keith went out in the eventual Stanley Cup-clinching contest and skated more than 30 minutes. His biggest influence on the affair, however, was his late-second period goal that saw him break into the zone, receive a pass from Patrick Kane, shoot and subsequently follow up on the rebound to bury the game – and Stanley Cup-winning – goal.
8. Johan Franzen – Detroit Red Wings vs. Ottawa Senators, Feb. 2, 2012
Only two players have had a five-goal game over the past decade – the other player appears on this list, too – and Franzen’s goal-column stuffer was one of those outings where the puck just kept finding him in the right spot. By the time the night was over, with Franzen firing 10 shots on goal, he had netted two in the first and a trio in the third. Every goal mattered, too, in what was a 7-5 victory for the Red Wings.
7. David Pastrnak – Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, April 14, 2018
Only three players have scored six points in a post-season game in the past decade and none as recently as Pastrnak, who absolutely tortured the Maple Leafs in Game 2 of the 2018 first-round series. It was clear he was going to have that kind of night early, too. By the time the first frame was through, ‘Pasta’ had a goal and two primary assists and he added a third helper in the second. He sealed the deal with two goals in the back half of the third in Boston’s 7-3 win. The Bruins won the series in seven games.
6. Claude Giroux – Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, April 13, 2012
What sets Giroux’s six-point game apart from Pastrnak’s? That Giroux put points on the board every which way. In the first period, he picked up a shorthanded assist. In the second, he scored on the power play and on the penalty kill. In the third, he added an empty-net goal, and he did all this while powering the Flyers to a crucial Game 2 victory that gave Philadelphia control of the first-round series against the rival Penguins.
5. Patrik Laine – Winnipeg Jets vs. St. Louis Blues, Nov. 24, 2018
Laine’s calling card since he stepped onto the NHL scene has been his lethal shot and pinpoint accuracy. Never has that been on display quite like his outing against the Blues early last season. In a game the Jets won 8-4, Laine simply couldn’t miss. He scored once in the first, three times in the second and netted his fifth in the third, and he produced his five-goal game on five shots.
4. Johan Franzen – Detroit Red Wings vs. San Jose Sharks, May 6, 2010
Impressive as the other six-point outings on this list may be, not a single one holds a candle to Franzen’s four-goal, six-point effort in the second round of the post-season against the Sharks. With the Red Wings needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, Franzen registered a natural hat trick in the first period – in under four minutes, no less – and had points on all but one of Detroit’s goals in their 7-1 thrashing of the Sharks. Franzen’s effort was all for naught, however. The Red Wings were eliminated in Game 5.
3. Martin Jones – San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights, April 21, 2019
In Game 6 of the opening round of the 2019 post-season, Jones needed to come up huge. Come up huge he did. With the Sharks’ season on the line, Jones stopped 58 shots and helped San Jose hang around long enough that Tomas Hertl was able to net the double-overtime winner to send the series to a seventh game. Jones’ performance, which saw him make the third-most saves in a victory over the past 10 years, set the stage for the Sharks’ Game 7 victory in one of the most iconic games of the decade.
2. Ben Scrivens – Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks, Jan. 29, 2014
It was in mid-January 2014 that Scrivens was dealt to the Oilers, but no one could have predicted what would happen two weeks into his stay with the team. On the night in question, the high-powered Sharks offense threw everything at Scrivens, but the recently acquired netminder stopped every single one of the 59 shots that came his way. The 59-save shutout made for the most saves in a blanking by any netminder in the past 10 years. Not only that, it set the record for most saves in a regular season shutout in NHL history.
1. Sam Gagner – Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks, Feb. 2, 2012
A no-brainer to finish atop the list as it was the first and only eight-point game the NHL has seen since the 1988-89 season. Gagner was everywhere that night and had a point on every single goal in the Oilers’ 8-4 rout of the Blackhawks. What might be forgotten about that outing is that Edmonton actually trailed Chicago 2-0 before Gagner came to life. He picked up a goal and two primary assists in 10 minutes in the second frame to give the Oilers the lead and then the puck stuck to him as he scored three goals in the third and added another five points. Fun fact: all but one of Gagner’s points were primary points.
Over the next two weeks, The Hockey News will be wrapping up the 2010s with a look back at the best – and worst – of the decade. Find more here.
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