Gagner’s historic eight-point night top Oilers highlight in 2012
Centre tied Gretzky, Coffey for most points by an Edmonton player in a game
Edmonton Oilers centre Sam Gagner celebrates his fourth goal against the Chicago Blackhawks with teammates Cam Barker and Taylor Hall at Rexall Place on Feb. 2, 2012.
Photograph by: Greg Southam
EDMONTON - Back in the early 1990s, Shaun Van Allen was knocked out in a game in Washington. When he came around in the ambulance, the centre didn’t know where he was or who he was.
“Tell him he’s Wayne Gretzky,” joked Ted Green, his Edmonton Oilers head coach.
For the briefest of moments, Van Allen may have thought he was No. 99.
Flash forward 20 years, and another Oilers centre was Gretzky, for a night.
Not for a few seconds. For 60 minutes.
While the Oilers had precious few highlights during the 2011-12 season when they finished 29th in the 30-team National Hockey League, Sam Gagner had one of those out-of-body experiences getting eight points in an 8-4 Oilers’ win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 2, 2012 at Rexall Place.
Eight goals, eight points. Gagner was in on them all.
Four goals, four assists. Nice symmetry, too.
Gagner’s eight points tied Gretzky and Paul Coffey for most points by an Oiler in a game.
In NHL history, only Darryl Sittler’s 10-pointer against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7, 1976, (Hockey Night in Canada, before a stupefied TV audience), has done better. Nobody’s ever had nine.
Gagner is one of just 11 players all-time to get eight points in a game. The list includes Gretzky and Mario Lemieux — twice, Rocket Richard, Bryan Trottier, Peter Stastny and his brother Anton, Bernie Nicholls, Bert Olmstead, Coffey and fellow defenceman and former Edmonton Oil King Tom Bladon. Starry company.
Lemieux had the last NHL eight-pointer, on the last day of the 1987-88 season, before Gagner’s feat on Feb. 2.
Gagner said he “doesn’t want to be defined by that one game,” but he’ll always have that on his resume.
Only the Pittsburgh great Lemieux (New Year’s Eve, 1988) against the New Jersey Devils, with five goals, three assists) in an 8-6 game and Gagner were in on every goal by their teams. Think about that; Gagner was not only on the ice for every goal the Oilers scored, he was on the scoresheet.
“A special night ... everything I seemed to touch either created a scoring chance or a goal,” said Gagner.
As the night was wearing on, Gagner had to refrain from yelling to the rooftops, “just give me the puck.”
“The weird thing was I felt pretty patient the whole night. I wasn’t rushing things. I remember on the eighth point, I went up the ice at my own pace, leisurely, and I had a feeling the puck was going to come to me at some point,” he said. “Normally, I’d be rushing up the ice to get involved.
“The whole night, things just kept working out.”
So for one night, he was Gretzky?
“Geez, I don’t know if you could say that,” said Gagner.
As the night was wearing on, and the points kept coming, Gagner had an inkling Gretzky and Coffey had eight points.
Gretzky got his eight points against New Jersey in the infamous “Mickey Mouse” game (Nov. 19, 1983, a 13-4 win) and against Chicago in a 12-8 rumble on Jan. 4, 1984.
Coffey got his eight against the Detroit Red Wings on March 14, 1986, in a 12-3 demolition.
Every Oilers player’s eight-pointer happened in Edmonton.
“Somebody mentioned to me (the record) when I had seven points, I think. The one thought I had was Wayne Gretzky always talking about ‘never putting limits on himself.’ I didn’t want to limit myself and kept pushing to get offence. It was a pretty tight game, we were leading 6-4 for a long time,” he said.
Was he ever thinking Sittler’s 10 points?
“It’s always in the back of your mind and it’s such a historic night. Everybody talks about Darryl Sittler’s 10 points. But, at the time, you’re not thinking a special number. You try for one point, then another, then another.
“You don’t want to put a cap on it,” he said.
Gagner didn’t just have a one goal-, seven-assist night. He had his best scoring night — he had a hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche’s Peter Budaj on March 19, 2009 — and the four assists on goals by Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Whitney and Cam Barker. An absolute blue-moon night.
“We were all kind of in awe,” said Hall, who had four points.
Tom Renney put Hall and Eberle and Gagner together in the second period and they had 16 points over the last 40 minutes.
“Aside from a couple, they were all points I was creating. They weren’t really lucky points. You don’t get things like this without your teammates, though.” he said. “Late in the game, guys were looking for me. I had chemistry with Jordan (Eberle) and Taylor (Hall) especially, but everybody was helping out.”
Gagner is almost more proud of his next game on Feb. 4, against the Red Wings.
He had two goals and an assist in the first period, figuring in 11 straight Oiler goals.
“The next game I put a lot of pressure on myself. I didn’t want to be defined by one good night and the next night was even bigger. I felt I played a better game, all around. I was around the puck an awful lot,” said Gagner.
They can never take Gagner’s eight-point night away from him, but he doesn’t want to be like a major league pitcher who gets a no-hitter and winds up with only 80 career wins. “I don’t want to be known for that little run (of points).
“I want to continue to develop and have more nights like that,” he said.
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