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Gagner joins elite company with 8-point night

by John Kreiser

Gordie Howe never had eight points in a game. Neither did Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Mark Messier, Mike Bossy or Brett Hull. In fact, before Thursday night, only 10 players in the history of the League had managed that feat.

That's what makes Sam Gagner's eight-point night so stunning.

Gagner became the first NHL player in more than 23 years to get eight points in a game when he did it Thursday night in Edmonton's 8-4 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. Gagner, 22, wasn't even born the last time someone turned an eight-point night.

With banners honoring two of the previous eight-point men -- Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey -- hanging from the rafters of Rexall Place, Gagner scored four goals and added four assists, all in a span of less than 35 minutes. The Blackhawks actually led 2-0 before Gagner had a goal and two assists in the second period, then buried three more and set up teammates Cam Barker and Jordan Eberle in the third.

Sam Gagner
Center - EDM
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 30
SOG: 86 | +/-: 2
To say that Gagner's memorable night came out of the blue would be putting it mildly.

Gagner, the Oilers' first pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, came into the game with just five goals and 22 points this season. He's never had more than 16 goals or 49 points in any of his four previous seasons. He got his eight points in only 17:28 of ice time, and scored four times on just six shots.

Of the 10 previous eight-point scorers, only Philadelphia defenseman Tom Bladon's big night might have been more surprising. Bladon had four goals and four assists in the Flyers' 11-1 win against the Cleveland Barons on Dec. 11, 1977; he finished the season with 53 points and had only one other season in which he managed more than 40 points.

But Bladon had his big night against one of the weakest teams in NHL history; Gagner had his fora team that's trying to avoid a third straight last-place finish -- and against one of the NHL's elite clubs.

Gagner is the first player to score eight points against a team over .500 since Gretzky did it against the Minnesota North Stars on Jan. 4, 1984, and the first to do it with a sub-.500 club since Peter and Anton Stastny of the Quebec Nordiques did it in the same game, an 11-7 win against Washington on Feb. 22, 1981

Gagner also did something that even Gretzky never accomplished: He piled up his eight points on a night when his team had exactly eight goals -- a feat previously accomplished only by Mario Lemieux in the last eight-point game, Pittsburgh's 8-6 win against New Jersey on Dec. 31, 1986.


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Happy anniversary -- Of course, Gagner's big night still left him two points short of the biggest night in NHL history. Tuesday is the 35th anniversary of Darryl Sittler's 10-point performance against Boston on Feb. 7, 1976. Sittler had six goals and four assists in the greatest one-man show the NHL has ever seen.

Changing times -- John Tavares earned the NHL's First Star for January by leading the League with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists), becoming the first Islander to top the NHL in points in a full month since Bryan Trottier had 28 in November 1980. It was the most by an Islander in one month since Pierre Turgeon's 23 points in March 1994.

Not surprisingly, given Tavares' performance, the Islanders went 7-5-1 in January -- their best month of the season.

Tavares compiled his 22 points for a team that scored only 35 goals -- meaning that he was directly involved in 63 percent of his team's offensive production. That's a far greater percentage than Trottier (28 points on 74 goals, 38 percent) and Turgeon (23 of 43, 54 percent).

For the season, Tavares had 53 points on a team that has scored 117 non-shootout goals -- meaning he's scored or assisted on 45.3 percent of his team's tallies. No other player with 50 or more points has had a hand in more than 40 percent of his team's goals.

His January numbers might have been higher if the Isles had another game against the Carolina Hurricanes. New York scored 10 non-shootout goals in three January meetings with Carolina (all wins); Tavares had a point on nine of them and was on the ice for the other.

He's the King -- About 20 miles from where Tavares is putting up big offensive numbers, Henrik Lundqvist is enjoying the best season of his career in keeping opponents off the scoreboard.

Lundqvist's 41st career shutout came Wednesday in the New York Rangers' 1-0 shootout win in Buffalo. Amazingly, it was the first time in his seven NHL seasons that he's put up back-to-back shutouts -- he blanked Winnipeg 3-0 in New York's last game before the All-Star break.

The Rangers-Sabres game was the first this season and No. 24 since the shootout was adopted in 2005 to go through 65 minutes without a goal being scored. Lundqvist has been involved in four of them, more than any other goaltender. The Rangers have played in five, more than any other team. New York's win at Buffalo means road teams have won 14 of those 24 contests.

No logic at all -- The Boston Bruins are the defending Stanley Cup champs and the leaders in the Northeast Division. The Carolina Hurricanes are trying to stay out of the Eastern Conference basement. So who swept the season series?

You only get one guess.

Carolina's 3-0 victory at Boston's TD Garden on Thursday night completed a four-game sweep by the 'Canes, with all four wins coming in regulation. Carolina outscored the Bruins 14-5 whole sweeping the B's for the first time since entering the NHL as the Hartford Whalers in 1979. Before this season, the Bruins had won 11 of the previous 13 meetings.

The big hero for the 'Canes was goaltender Cam Ward, who stopped 139 of 144 Boston shots in the four games -- including all 47 he faced on Thursday.

Road warrior -- Detroit's Jiri Hudler has gone from one of the NHL's least-dangerous players on the road to a genuine sniper away from Joe Louis Arena.

Hudler's goal in the Wings' 4-3 shootout victory at Vancouver on Thursday was the 11th he's scored in his last 10 road games. What makes that number more remarkable is that he had scored just nine times in his previous 66 games away from home. By the way, Hudler also had the deciding goal in the shootout against the Canucks.
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