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Lemieux's hit epic "cycle" on New Year's Eve

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Penguins

The NHL has provided so many incredible moments throughout the league's 100-plus-year existence. But one moment stands above all others in the pantheon of history - and that moment took place on Dec. 31, 1988, 31 years ago today, at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena.

In fact, it was a moment that had never been achieved before, and hasn't been achieved since. A literal once-in-a-lifetime event.

Video: 1988: Mario Lemieux scores five different ways

On that historic night, Penguins Hall-of-Fame captain Mario Lemieux scored five goals five different ways against the New Jersey Devils.

That would be: even strength, shorthanded, power play, penalty shot and empty net.

"I had no clue until after the game, someone told me I had scored five different ways," Lemieux recalled. "That was a chance of a lifetime. It never happens where you have the opportunity for a penalty shot and an empty-net goal.

"That was a great night, and a night I can cherish for a long time."

Lemieux's feat was so unprecedented that even those in the media were unaware of its significance at the time.

"Until that point, no one had ever imagined someone scoring five goals five ways," said Tom McMillan, the Penguins' Vice President of Communications, who covered the 1988 game for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It wasn't something anyone strived for. No one ever talked about it.

 "So, when it happened, no one really recognized it right away. The last goal came with one second left, and Mario had eight points that night. He was on a scoring rampage all year, something like 12 five-point games. It wasn't until a little while after the game that people realized, 'hey, he scored five goals five ways.'"

Indeed, Lemieux figured in on all eight Pittsburgh goals in the 8-6 victory. And he started the game by recording a hat trick (one of eight that season) in the first period (even strength, shorthanded, power play). He added a penalty shot goal in the second period, and the empty-netter in the third while assisting on goals by Rob Brown, Dan Quinn and Phil Bourque.

"Some things survive the test of time. That's one of those," said Brown, who scored 49 goals that season playing on Lemieux's wing. "I don't know how you top it."

Lemieux would finish the 1988-89 season with 85 goals, 114 assists and 199 points in 76 games to win one of his six Art Ross trophies as NHL scoring champion. That season also saw Lemieux post 12 five-point games, four six-point games and two eight-point games.

One of those eight-point games came on that New Year's Eve contest, when Lemieux hit a mark that may never be repeated.

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