EDMONTON – Sam Gagner was still having trouble Friday believing his name is in the Edmonton Oilers record book alongside the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey.
But Gagner moved himself into such lofty company after registering a club record-tying eight points in Edmonton’s 8-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
“It feels good,” Gagner said following the Oilers’ skate Friday morning. “You can’t really re-create a memory like that. I’m not sure if it’s even sunk in fully yet.
“Once the summer hits, it might. For myself, I’m trying to stay even-keeled as much as I can. It’s hard but we have games coming up. It seems like we play every other day. I’ve got to find a way to just kind of relax and get some sleep and get ready for the next one.”
Gagner had four goals and four assists to become just the 11th player in NHL history to register eight points in one game. Gretzky did it twice, against New Jersey in 1983 and Minnesota in 1984, while Coffey did so against Detroit in 1986.
Gretzky’s No. 99 and Coffey’s No. 7 hang in the rafters at Rexall Place and both players are in Hockey Hall of Fame. They also contacted Gagner to offer their congratulations and Gagner said he still hasn’t read all the text messages he received following his record-tying performance.
“I had 60 (messages) last night and another 50 when I got up this morning,” he told a large group of reporters. “It’s a lot of work texting everyone back, but it’s nice to see the support from everyone.
“I got a couple of really big ones, too. Wayne Gretzky texted me and Paul Coffey as well. To be mentioned in a record with those guys is a pretty special feeling and just really an honour . . . to get a text someone like that, who is the best player of all time, it’s something he didn’t have to do. To take time out of his day to do that, it was really special for me and it meant a lot.”
Mario Lemieux twice had eight points and was the last to do so before Gagner did. In fact, the 22-year-old Gagner wasn’t even born when Lemieux did it for the second time Dec. 31, 1988 against New Jersey.
“I think it speaks volumes to how crazy getting eight points in a game in today’s era is and how it just doesn’t happen,” linemate Taylor Hall said. “I’m not sure how many games have been played since then, but it’s got to be crazy and how about the number of games before that?
“It’s just an amazing stat and I’m grateful I was there to see it.”
Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs holds the NHL record of 10 points in one game. He accomplished the feat against the Boston Bruins at Maple Leaf Gardens on Feb. 7, 1976.
“When I had eight, guys were talking about it, that I had a chance to tie Darryl Sittler,” Gagner said. “I was like, ‘There’s three minutes left. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen.’
“I wasn’t even thinking of scoring nine to beat Gretzky. I just wanted to continue to keep it going. If I got a chance, I’d try and score again but I wasn’t really thinking about any records.”
With Gagner stealing the show, linemates Hall and Jordan Eberle had quiet career-high marks with four points each.
“I haven’t even really thought about it. I’m still thinking about Sam getting eight,” said Hall. “We just had a lot of fun as a line.
“We had a lot of chemistry and Sam was in on everything. He was everywhere making great plays and we were just kind of feeding off him.”
Slowed by a sprained ankle to start the season and shifted between centre and both wings by coach Tom Renney, Gagner got his first prolonged chance to play with Hall and Eberle when rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins injured his shoulder in Chicago on Jan. 2.
“He didn’t get any (points) in the first period, which is even more incredible that he got them all in just two periods,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who’d been playing between Hall and Eberle before he was injured.
“Definitely, they’re going to stick together after a night like that. Even before that, they showed good chemistry together, so you definitely can’t split that up.”
In the waning seconds, teammates were urging Gagner to take another shift in an attempt to move past Gretzky and Coffey. But he stayed on the bench, completely spent.
“It was just an extraordinary night,” defenceman Ladislav Smid said. “Thank God we had him in the lineup. It’s great.
“I’m so happy for him. He has shown several times this season he’s a great teammate. Everybody goes through some bumps, you know? You couldn’t really tell. He was positive around us. He had a few fights, just to show that he cares. That’s very important. I thinkhe’s a great teammate, a friend of mine and I’m really happy for him.”
Gagner had one goal and five assists in the first 12 games Nugent-Hopkins missed before Thursday’s performance.
“I just wanted to continue to tell myself that there was still a long way left to go,” Gagner said of his early-season struggles. “I just wanted to work hard and fight my way back.
“I still believe there is still a long way to go. There’s a lot left to prove and I’ve got to make sure I’m ready every day to come to the rink and produce. That has to be my mindset.”
With Nugent-Hopkins expected to return against Detroit on Saturday, it looks like Gagner will finish with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in his absence. Gagner has 30 points (9-21) in 44 games this season.
“Obviously, it helps your confidence knowing you’re able to produce at a high level,” Gagner said. “Obviously, eight points is not something you can hit every night.
“It was a great game, but if it can help me have some confidence and continue to move forward and play a more consistent game every night and help the team win by producing, that would be great.”