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Pastrnak’s Game 2 performance among 10 best playoff performances of past 30 years

David Pastrnak’s three-goal, six-point night wasn’t just a dominant performance, it was a record-setting one as he became the youngest player in NHL history to score six points in a playoff game.

David Pastrnak had the game of his life Saturday night. With the Bruins already leading the Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 in the best-of-seven opening round series, Boston’s 21-year-old top-line star dominated Game 2 — and put his mark all over the scoresheet — in a way few players have in NHL history.

It began 5:26 into the opening frame when Pastrnak opened scoring with a dazzling display of hand-eye coordination, settling down a bouncing puck while spinning and then slipping one past Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. It continued less than seven minutes later when Pastrnak earned the primary assist on Kevan Miller’s bank-shot goal. And Pastrnak found the scoresheet for a third time in the opening frame, and for the third time with a primary point, when he fired a shot through on the power play that Rick Nash swept in to give Boston a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes.

In the second, Toronto struck early, but less than three minutes after the Maple Leafs showed some signs of life, Pastrnak snuffed out any hope on the Buds’ bench. Winding up on the left wing, Pastrnak directed a slap pass towards the front of the net and David Krejci deftly deflected the puck past Curtis McElhinney, who entered the game in relief of Andersen. In the third, Pastrnak continued his dominance with a slick showing of patience to beat McElhinney short side after walking out from behind the net and Pastrnak capped his monster night by completing the hat trick in spectacular fashion. With less than two minutes left, he received a pass from below the goal line, slipped the puck between his own legs and onto his backhand, out-waited McElhinney and fired the backhander home.

Make no mistake, Pastrnak’s game was, from a statistical perspective, one of the very best the NHL has seen since the NHL began keeping detailed game-by-game scoring logs 30 years ago. Only 19 times since the 1987-88 campaign has a player registered six points in a single playoff outing. Only 11 of those instances were complete with a hat trick. And only three of those single-game standout performances have come in the post-lockout era. 

What elevates his game when it’s compared to other great playoff performances, though, is that Pastrnak made history by finding the scoresheet six times. At 21 years and 324 days old, he’s the youngest player in NHL history to register six points in a post-season game, taking that mark from — who else? — Wayne Gretzky.

So, with Pastrnak’s outing standing as one of the best single-game playoff performances in NHL history, here are nine others to complete the top 10:


It was arguably one of the most memorable playoff games of the modern era for the Flyers, a head-to-head with the state rival Pittsburgh Penguins that saw the two teams combine for 13 goals. Giroux played no small part in the affair. Down 2-0 early, Giroux registered a shorthanded assist to bring Philadelphia close, but he really began to take over early in the second. Five minutes in, Giroux lit the lamp on the power play, and six minutes later Giroux scored a shorthanded tally that tied the game. Giroux would assist on two more goals and slotted home an empty netter en route to a six-point night in the Flyers’ 8-5 victory.


Earlier this week, we ran down the biggest Game 1 routs in NHL history on the heels of the Penguins’ 7-0 victory over the Flyers. Top spot belonged to the Bruins, who dismantled the Toronto Maple Leafs (sound familiar?) in the most lopsided game in post-season history. Boston’s 10-0 victory was no doubt powered by Esposito, too. He had a goal and assist before the game was four minutes old, and he finished out the first period with two goals and three points. Then, late in the second, Esposito notched two more goals in a five-minute span to bring his total to four, and later capped his night with another power play assist and skated away with a point on six of Boston’s 10 goals.


Somewhere out there there’s a Sharks fan who still recoils at the name Johan Franzen, who has nightmares about the man they call ‘The Mule.’ That isn’t without reason. During Game 4 of the second round series against the Sharks in 2010, Franzen went off. At 5:40 of the first, he picked up a power play assist. Less than two minutes later, he scored his first of the game. Three minutes later, he picked up his second. And it took Franzen all of 33 seconds to complete the natural hat trick. As if the four points in less than six minutes wasn’t enough, Franzen added another assist and a fourth goal as Detroit skated to a 7-1 win.


In February 1976, Sittler had the greatest single game performance in NHL history, scoring six goals and 10 points in one night. And while that’s an awfully difficult act to follow up, Sittler pulled a nearly as impressive act out of his hat only a couple of months later. In a crucial Game 6 between Toronto and Philadelphia, Sittler scored once in the first frame, three times in the second frame and fired home his fifth of the game minutes into the third. To this day, Sittler remains one of only five players to score five times in a playoff game, and he added an assist, too, to bring his point total to six.


Only three games in playoff history have finished with a spread of 10 or more goals, and is anyone surprised to see the Gretzky-era Oilers among the teams to dominate an opponent in such a fashion? During Game 2 of the first-round series with the Los Angeles Kings, Gretzky was a man on a mission and an absolute set-up machine. He picked up three primary assists in the first period, one more in the second and a fifth in the third period. He also added a goal and an assist, the last of which brought him to seven points on the night. Somehow, this wasn’t even his best game.


Few teams throughout his career got the brunt of Gretzky’s wrath quite like the Jets, and there was one night in particular where Winnipeg wished they would never see No. 99 again. Already trailing the Oilers 3-0 in the second round of the post-season, the Jets watched as Gretzky pieced together a brilliant seven-point outing. He scored twice in the first period, the second coming while on the penalty kill, and then assisted on three straight Edmonton goals to start the second period. In the third, Gretzky picked up his fourth assist of the night when he set up Jari Kurri’s third goal of the outing, and then ‘The Great One’ fired home his second shorty of the night to complete a hat trick of his own.


Yes, Gretzky again. Yes, another seven-point night. And yes, this one is more impressive than the last, against the rival Calgary Flames, no less. Let’s break down Gretzky’s night, shall we? In the first period, he scored a pair of goals in less than a minute. In the second, he fired home two more goals, one coming while shorthanded. And sprinkled throughout the game were three primary assists for Gretzky, two coming while Edmonton was on the penalty kill. For those scoring at home, that’s four goals, three shorthanded points and seven points total for Gretzky in one playoff game.


How does that old Sesame Street rhyme go? You know the one about one of these things not being like the others? Five of the six final entries on this list of 10 great post-season performances come from Hall of Famers and honest-to-goodness legends of the game. Sundstrom sticks out like a sore thumb among that group. That didn’t stop him from absolutely dismantling the Washington Capitals back in April 1988, though. Sundstrom scored three times — he bookended an eight-goal second period with tallies 57 seconds in and with 15 seconds remaining — and had five assists, four of which were primary helpers, en route to one of two eight-point games the playoffs have seen in the past 30 years. Just for the sake of comparison, Sundstrom’s three four-point games were the highest scoring regular season contests of his 679-game, 588-point career. 


If it wasn’t going to be Gretzky, it had to be Lemieux, right? The scary thing about Lemieux’s eight-point game is that it’s not just the most impressive because of the eight points. It’s the most impressive because of the rate at which he took over the game. In the first period, 2:15 in, Lemieux scored his first of the game, and over the next 4:40, ‘Super Mario’ completed the natural hat trick. It took him only another 10 minutes to stretch his goal total to four. In the second, Lemieux earned an assist early, two primary helpers late, and he capped the night with an empty-net goal — his fifth marker of the game — with 37 seconds remaining. It remains the most impressive offensive performance in a single game in NHL playoff history.



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