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Greatest Moments

Lemieux's five-goal game voted Greatest NHL Moment

Fans select night Penguins center rang in new year with historic effort against Devils

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

Before Mario Lemieux played his most magnificent game, he took a day off.

One day before Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins were to host the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 31, 1988, he was excused from practice by coach Gene Ubriaco. A rested Lemieux went out and celebrated New Year's Eve with a one-of-a-kind performance at Civic Arena voted by fans as the winner in the Greatest NHL Moments presented by Coors Light and Pepsi Zero Sugar.

The winning moment was announced during the Scotiabank 2017 NHL100 Classic at Lansdowne Park between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators on Saturday. 

Lemieux became the only player in NHL history to score five goals in five different ways during the same game. Lemieux scored at even strength, on the power play, shorthanded, on a penalty shot and into an empty net to lead the Penguins to an 8-6 victory against the Devils. His performance won the fan vote, which began on Oct. 18 with a bracket of 64 entries, and in the final round defeated Bobby Orr's overtime goal to win the 1970 Stanley Cup Final for the Boston Bruins. 

Video: 1988: Mario Lemieux scores five different ways

Lemieux said the day off after a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 29 made a difference.

"I felt pretty good," he said, according to the report from The Associated Press. "The day off helped me a lot, especially at this time of the year."

Lemieux assisted on the Penguins' other three goals for an eight-point night. Linemate Rob Brown, who scored one of those goals, said Lemieux's performance was even more spectacular than the numbers indicated.

"Some of the things he did out there were amazing when he didn't score," Brown said in the Associated Press story. "He put the puck through his legs, he made some twirls. 

"It was a classic example of the best hockey player in the world."

Lemieux began with an even-strength goal at 4:17 of the first period that tied the game 1-1. His shorthanded goal at 7:50 made it 2-1, and he scored a power-play goal at 10:59 to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead.

Lemieux assisted on goals by Brown and Dan Quinn in the second period before scoring on a penalty shot at 11:14 to give Pittsburgh a 6-4 lead. After New Jersey defenseman Tom Kurvers scored 29 seconds later to make it 6-5, Lemieux set up Phil Bourque's goal at 16:35 for a 7-5 lead.

Video: Lemieux's 5 goals, 5 ways named Greatest NHL Moment

Anders Carlsson scored at 16:24 of the third period to get the Devils within 7-6, but Lemieux hit the empty net with one second remaining to complete his historic night.

"It's almost impossible," Ed Johnston, the general manager who selected Lemieux with the No. 1 pick in the 1984 NHL Draft, told the Penguins website last week. "Goalie out, shorthanded … every which way that can happen, it happened. But with a guy like Mario, nothing surprises me."

Longtime Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko, who was paired with Craig Wolanin for much of the game, had an up-close view of Lemieux's achievement. He told NHL.com in October that it was a game he'll never forget.

"Even the great forwards today on occasion beat defenders 1-on-1 over the course of a game, but Mario would beat them 50 percent of the time if it was a 1-on-1 matchup; that's what I remember," he said. "Look, we're all professionals and I'd try hard to defend him, but he'd beat you with regularity, and it was pretty sick.

"It was one of those legendary-type performances for someone who eventually would become one of the greatest players to ever play the game. You know he's having a remarkable game but we're not happy about it. Now that I'm retired and can look back, it was as great a performance from any opponent I've ever played against."

Video: MTL@OTT: Lemieux joins the booth at NHL100 Classic

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