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Bernie Nicholls Reflects on His LA Kings Franchise Record

For over three decades, Nicholls and Wayne Gretzky have shared the club record of 13 shots in a single game

by Mike Commito @mikecommito / LAKings.com

Thinking back to the time he wired 13 shots on net in a game against the Oilers, Bernie Nicholls was succinct. "13 shots in a game, that's a lot," he reflected. More than three decades later, it is still an LA Kings club record that he shares with Wayne Gretzky. 

At that point in his career, Nicholls was shooting the most he ever had. "As a centerman, I'd sooner pass the puck than shoot it, but our coach at the time was telling me he wanted me to shoot," he remembered. "So I did."

It proved to be sage advice. Playing in his 51st game of the season, the Kings center was sitting at 48 goals. If he was able to bag two more that game he'd reach the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career and match the club record for fewest games to reach the milestone - Charlie Simmer had first accomplished the feat eight years earlier.

"That night, trying to get 50, I knew I would be shooting a lot," Nicholls recalled. "When you're playing, you probably don't realize how many shot you're taking at the time." 

Early into the second period, the Kings were trailing 5-0 to the Oilers following two quick back-to-back power play goals by Jimmy Carson, who LA had sent to Edmonton that past offseason as part of the package that landed Gretzky. 

When the Kings got a power play of their own, Nicholls and Gretzky went to work.

"I always played the point on the power play because Gretz played center, which worked out great for me because Gretz would always be on his offside and I would be on my offside for a one-timer," Nicholls explained. "And I would roam, too. I would go in front of the net and do that. I would always get lots of opportunities." 

Just over the five-minute mark in the middle frame, Nicholls scored his 49th. Less than thirty seconds later, he scored his 50th. Both goals were assisted on by Gretzky.

"When you're playing with Gretz and Luc and Dave Taylor, there's no chance I wasn't getting the puck for the most part because they're always giving it you, or at least Gretz is, which is always good," Nicholls noted. 

Despite reaching the 50-goal mark in just 51 games, Nicholls doesn't recall thinking that he ever would have reached the 70 goals he ended up finishing the season with.

"At 50 games you've got 50 goals and you still have 30 games left, there's a good chance that, if you stay healthy and keep going the way you're going, you're going to hit a good number. But for me, I never thought of 70," he stated. "Not many people do."

The playmaker turned sniper believed that the possibility of hitting 70 only dawned on him late in the campaign. After heading into Edmonton with 65 goals, Nicholls scored twice to move within three.

With just four games remaining in the regular-season, he was running out of time. Following two straight games without a goal, Nicholls fired 12 shots against the Canucks to score a hat trick and become just the fourth player in NHL history to score 70 goals in a single season. 

And he did it with one game to spare. But having hit the mark, coach Robbie Ftorek gave Nicholls the night off for the team's final regular-season game. "Whether I would have got it off or not if I was still at 69 is unclear. I don't know if the coach would have let me play or not, so it worked out pretty well," he said. 

The only thing that didn't work out too well for Nicholls is that he didn't have any performance bonuses in his contract at that stage of his career.

"I had them when I was younger for 30 or 40 goals, but none at that time, which kind of sucked," he jokingly lamented. "I imagine it would have been a pretty good bonus for 70."

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