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40 Moments: Sam Gagner explodes for an eight-point night

In order to celebrate the Edmonton Oilers’ 40-year anniversary AND distract ourselves during this hockey-less nightmare, we’ll be re-living 40 amazing moments from Oilers history. Today, we have Sam Gagner’s record-tying eight-point night. 

Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, and Sam Gagner.

What do those players have in common? They’re members of the exclusive club of players who have recorded an eight-point game in the NHL. Only 16 times and by 10 players (Maurice Richard, Bert Olmstead, Darryl Sittler, Tom Blandon, Bryan Trottier, Anton and Peter Stastny, Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Patrik Sundstrom, Bernie Nicholls, and Mario Lemieux) has that feat been accomplished.

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Back on Feb. 12, 2012, with the Chicago Blackhawks visiting Rexall Place, Gagner exploded for the game of his life, racking up four goals and four assists in an 8-4 victory.

The thing that makes Gagner’s eight-point night so wild is that he was the first to do it since the 1980s. Between Darryl Sittler’s 10-game in 1976 and Mario Lemieux’s third-career eight-point in the 1989 playoffs, there were 13 occurrences of the feat. This is no surprise given how much scoring there was back in those days. The first two eight-point games in league history came in 1944 and 1954, but, after the high-flying days of the 80s, it took a player another 23 years to reach the feat.

Gagner wasn’t even alive the last time an NHL player managed to put up eight points in a game.

The other wild thing about Gagner’s game was the fact it came against a good team. The Blackhawks were just a couple years removed from winning the Stanley Cup in 2009 and they would go on to lift the Cup again the following season in 2013. The Oilers really had Chicago’s number that year. In November, the Oilers pounded the Hawks 9-2 and Gagner didn’t receive a single point. A few months later, the Oilers pulled off an 8-4 win with Gagner being involved in every single goal.

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To say this night came out of the blue would be an understatement.

The Oilers were right in the middle of their tanking years, or, Oil Change if you’d prefer to call it that. They had finished dead last in the league in 2010-11 and appeared poised for another basement finish in 2011-12. Everyone knew the team had some skill and offensive firepower, but Gagner’s name wasn’t the one you’d have associated with it.

Don’t get me wrong, Gagner was a solid player, but if you had told me coming into that night that an Oiler was going to pop off for eight points, I would have guessed it would have been one of the team’s first-overall picks, Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Maybe even Jordan Eberle, who broke out for 76 points that season. I mean, in Edmonton’s 9-2 win over Chicago earlier that season, Hall scored a hat-trick and Nugent-Hopkins recorded five assists.

But, of all those players, it was Gagner who did it. Coming into that game, Gagner had just five goals and 22 points on the season. Once the future face of the franchise, the former 2007 sixth-overall pick had become overshadowed by the new players the Oilers had drafted during their Oil Change years.

Heading into the game, Edmonton owned a 19-26-5 while the visiting Blackhawks had a 29-15-7 record. Though the Oilers had that 9-2 win earlier in the season, Chicago was certainly still the heavy favourite.

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The Hawks scored the first goal of the game six minutes in and made their lead 2-0 under a minute into the second period. Gagner would spring Hall for a partial breakaway a few minutes after, cutting the lead to 2-1. Gagner would tie the game himself, picking up his own rebound and wrapping the puck around the net to beat Corey Crawford. With the Oilers on the power-play, Gagner dangled the puck into the zone and it made its way back to Ryan Whitney at the point, who clapped a bomb past Crawford to give the Oilers a 3-2 lead.

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Patrick Sharp would score a short-handed goal before the end of the period to make it tied at 3-3 heading into the third frame. This was when Gagner exploded.

A couple of minutes into the third, Gagner fired in a rebound at the side of the net to make the score 4-3. Cam Barker would chase Crawford from the game with an ugly goal from the point to make it 5-3, with Gagner picking up a secondary assist. After Dave Bolland cut the score to 5-4, Gagner took a pass from Hall in the offensive zone and ripped the puck past Emery to complete the hat-trick.

With just over five minutes to go in the game Hall, Eberle, and Gagner completed a nifty tic-tac-toe play in the offensive zone, giving Gagner his fourth goal of the game. A couple of minutes later, Gagner found Eberle in the slot for an easy tap-in goal, giving him the eight-point night.

Four goals, four assists, eight points. Echoes of the 80s. Gagner came completely out of the blue to put up one of the best individual performances in Oilers’ history, which is really saying something given the talent that has played on this team throughout its history.