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Eight of the unlikeliest performances in NHL history

by John Kreiser /

Hockey's greatest stars dominate the NHL record book with performances such as Wayne Gretzky's 92-goal season in 1981-82, Bobby Orr winning scoring titles as a defenseman and Martin Brodeur piling up 120 (and counting) shutouts. But the record book also is home to a number of players who weren't household names -- players whose brush with greatness was confined to a single night.

Here are some of the greatest one-night stands, so to speak, in NHL history:

Sam LoPresti

March 4, 1941

The native of Eveleth, Minn., lasted just two seasons and played all of 74 NHL games, but that was more than enough time to earn his line in the record book for most saves by a goaltender in a single game.

LoPresti took the ice for the Chicago Blackhawks at Boston Garden on March 4, 1941, and was immediately under siege from the powerful Bruins, who were closing in on a first-place finish. The home side pelted the rookie goaltender with shot after shot, only to see him make save after save. The Bruins did manage to get three pucks past LoPresti for a 3-2 victory, but he set an NHL record that still stands by making 80 saves in regulation, earning an ovation from the Boston Garden crowd in the process.

No goaltender since that night has faced more than 73 shots in 60 minutes of hockey.

Red Berenson

Nov. 7, 1968

Before becoming one of the greatest coaches in college hockey history, Red Berenson made a name for himself by becoming the only play in NHL history to score six goals in a road game. (Steve Babineau/NHLI)

Berenson is known today as one of the greatest coaches in the history of college hockey. But before he became famous for his work behind the bench at the University of Michigan, he was known in St. Louis as the "Red Baron," one of the early stars among the six teams added in the 1967 expansion.

Berenson hadn't made it with the Montreal Canadiens or New York Rangers, but he was a hit with the St. Louis Blues, helping them to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season. He enjoyed the greatest night ever by a visiting player early in the Blues' second NHL season, becoming the only player in NHL history to score six goals in a road game as the Blues beat the Philadelphia Flyers 8-0 at the Spectrum. Berenson scored once in the first period, four times in the second and wrapped his big night with an unassisted goal late in the third period.

The six goals were the most scored in any game since Syd Howe of the Detroit Red Wings scored a half-dozen times in 1944; since Berenson, only Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs has scored six in a single game. But Berenson remains the only player to get six while playing away from home.

Don Murdoch

Oct. 12, 1976

The New York Rangers were in a rebuilding phase when they took Murdoch with the sixth pick in the 1976 NHL Draft. He earned a spot on the roster and wasted no time in showing why the Rangers drafted him.

In his fourth NHL game, Murdoch lit up the Minnesota North Stars for five goals as the Rangers won 10-5 at Met Center. Howie Meeker of the Toronto Maple Leafs (in 1947) was the only other first-year player to score five times in a game; no one has done it since Murdoch.

Murdoch went on to score 15 goals in his first 15 games and 32 in 59 games before a severe ankle injury ended his season. He had 27 goals in his second season but was suspended by the NHL for the first half of the 1978-79 season after pleading guilty to a drug possession charge and was done as an NHL player by 1982.

Ian Turnbull

Feb. 2, 1977

For all his greatness, Bobby Orr never scored more than three goals in a game. Neither did Hall of Famers Ray Bourque and Brian Leetch. Paul Coffey, another Hall of Famer, did get four. But Turnbull, a Montreal native taken in the first round of the 1973 draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the only defenseman in NHL history to score five times in one game.

Turnbull perhaps was best known as Hall of Famer Borje Salming's partner with Toronto for much of the 1970s. But he stepped into the spotlight when the Detroit Red Wings came to Maple Leaf Gardens in early February 1977, beating Ed Giacomin twice and Jim Rutherford three times as the Leafs overpowered Detroit in a 9-1 victory.

Even more impressive was the fact that Turnbull became the first -- and still only -- player in League history to score five times on five shots.

Turnbull finished the 1976-77 season with career highs of 22 goals and 79 points, but never got close to either total again and was out of the NHL before his 30th birthday.

Al Hill

Feb. 14, 1977

Al Hill, seen here participating in the Alumni Game at the 2012 NHL Winter Classic, set a mark for most points in an NHL debut with two goals and three assists. (Dave Sandford/NHLI)

Hill, whose lack of scoring left him undrafted before the Philadelphia Flyers signed him as a free agent, had the highest-scoring debut of any player in NHL history.

Playing on a like with Bob Clarke and Bob Kelly, Hill wasted no time making an impact after the injury-plagued Flyers called him up from the minors. He scored his first NHL goal 36 seconds into the game, ripping a 40-foot slapper past St. Louis Blues goaltender Yves Belanger. Hill scored again less than 11 minutes later, then added three assists as the Flyers beat the Blues 6-4.

Hill also got into a fight, giving him a Gordie Howe hat trick in his debut.

It took statisticians a few days to determine that Hill had set a record for the most points by a player in his first NHL game, but by that point, he had been sent back to the minors. Hill did return and went on to play 221 NHL games, all with the Flyers, totaling 40 goals and 95 points.

Jeff Reese

Feb. 10, 1993

These days Reese is known as one of the NHL's best goaltending coaches -- he earned a Stanley Cup ring with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 and now works for the Philadelphia Flyers. He never won more than 14 games in a season during his 11-season NHL career, but he did get into the record book for an accomplishment that may never be matched.

Reese was playing for the Calgary Flames when the second-year San Jose Sharks came to the Saddledome in February 1993. The Flames delighted their fans by demolishing the lowly Sharks 13-1, and Reese set a mark for goaltenders by earning assists on three of Calgary's 13 goals.

How out of character was the three-assist night? In the other 173 games of Reese's career, he had a total of five assists.

Fabian Brunnstrom

Oct. 15, 2008

Brunnstrom, a Swedish forward who never was drafted by an NHL team, became the subject of a bidding battle in the summer of 2008 after he had 37 points in 54 games in the 2007-08 season with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League. The Dallas Stars won and signed him to a two-year contract.

The 23-year-old was a healthy scratch in Dallas' first two games, but made history when he finally took the ice by becoming the third player in NHL history to get a hat trick in his first game. He scored three goals, including the game-winner, in Dallas' 6-4 victory against the Nashville Predators.

However, those three goals proved to be more than 15 percent of Brunnstrom's career NHL total. He wound up with 19 goals and 41 points in 104 games with Dallas and the Detroit Red Wings before spending most of the 2011-12 season in the American Hockey League. He returned to Sweden to play for Frolunda in 2012-13.

Sam Gagner

Feb. 2, 2012

Sam Gagner joined some good company when he became the first player since Mario Lemieux in 1988 to tally eight points in a game. (Andy Devlin/NHLI)

The son of former NHL player Dave Gagner became the sixth player taken in the 2007 NHL Draft when he was selected by the Edmonton Oilers. He was good enough to make the team as an 18-year-old and finished with 13 goals and 49 points.

However, Gagner never built on his promising start -- he had no more than 16 goals and 42 points in any of his next three seasons, and there were rumors circulating that he could be traded by the time the Chicago Blackhawks came to Rexall Place during their annual February road trip in 2012.

Much to the amazement of everyone in the building, Gagner scored four times and added four assists to become the first player since Mario Lemieux in 1988 -- and just the 13th in NHL history -- to total eight points in a game. He added three more points in the Oilers' next game to set a franchise record for points in a two-game span with 11, one more than the previous mark held by Gretzky.

Despite the outburst, Gagner finished the season with 47 points -- though his 18 goals were a career high. He had 14 goals and 38 points in 48 games last season.

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