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THN Roundtable: The most memorable single-game heroics from an unlikely source

In honour of Jean-Gabriel Pageau's four-goal game against the Rangers, here are our favorite big games from players you wouldn't expect to have a starring role.


I'll never forget Eric Desjardins' hat trick in Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup final. It's not like Desjardins was an out-of-nowhere scrub having a good game – but to see it from a defenseman and in the final to boot was spectacular. And it capped off one of the most controversial games in hockey history. The Kings won Game 1 and were on the verge of going up 2-0 with a second straight road win, holding a 2-1 lead, when captain Guy Carbonneau urged coach Jacques Demers to call for a stick measurement on Kings D-Man Marty McSorley. His curve was ruled illegal, and Desjardins scored his second goal of the game on the power play to tie it. He then waited out Hrudey with a perfectly placed wrester through the five-hole in overtime to seal the victory and complete the hat trick. Montreal didn't lose again in the series. It was the first hat trick by a blueliner in Stanley Cup final history, an amazing performance in an uber-memorable game. (Matt Larkin)


Max Talbot became a fan favorite in Pittsburgh for putting his body on the line and chipping in here and there on a team with championship aspirations. So, when Talbot used his fists to spark a Game 6 comeback against the rival Flyers — a fight that was followed by the now-iconic shushing of the hostile Philadelphia crowd — it wouldn’t have been all too surprising if Talbot had provided his greatest contribution to the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run. That’s because no one could have expected Talbot’s performance in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. 

In Game 7, Talbot broke a goalless tie when he scored 1:13 into the second frame and left an indelible mark on Penguins history when he scored his second goal of the contest a mere nine minutes later. Talbot’s second tally stood as the game- and Stanley Cup-winning goal, and there’s no question he was among the unlikeliest of heroes on a roster that boasted Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, among others.

Here’s what makes Talbot’s contribution especially incredible: it was only the fourth time in what was at that point 351 career big league games that Talbot had scored twice in one outing. Coincidentally, the third time was Game 3 of the same final when he scored two goals in a 4-2 Penguins victory. No one could have guessed that was a sign of things to come. (Jared Clinton)

Tom Fitzgerald

I'm gonna go with a deep cut here and say Tom Fitzgerald's Game 4 for the Islanders against Pittsburgh in 1993. That series will forever be remembered for the David Volek overtime winner in Game 7 that knocked out the defending champion Penguins. But New York doesn't even get a chance for that glory without Fitzgerald, who scored two shorthanded goals in a 6-5 Game 4 victory. Pittsburgh was up 2-1 in the series at the time and had the Penguins simply passed the puck around for those power plays, perhaps they have a 3-1 stranglehold heading back home for Game 5. All the more impressive is the talent Pittsburgh had on its power play unit: Fitzgerald had to score his markers with Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr Ron Francis and Larry Murphy on the ice. (Ryan Kennedy)

Mikko Leinonen

It would probably come as a surprise to no one that the NHL record for assists in a playoff game is shared by none other than Wayne Gretzky. Water is wet, too. If you know the player with whom Gretzky shares that mark, go to the head of the class and present your book report on Who the Hell was Mikko Leinonen? In the first round of the playoffs in 1982, the Rangers went up against the Philadelphia Flyers in a best-of-five Patrick Division semifinal series. The Flyers took Game 1 at Madison Square Garden and the Rangers, in a must-win situation, needed a hero. That hero was Mikko Leinonen, a 26-year-old Finnish rookie who came to the Rangers with some pretty decent scoring credentials. He had scored six goals and 10 points for Finland in the 1980 Olympics and made his country’s Canada Cup team in 1981. Leinonen got his first helper early in the game on a goal by Carol Vadnais, then added three assists in the second period and two in the third in a 7-3 Rangers’ victory. Leinonen, who played two more seasons with the Rangers and three games with the Washington Capitals, scored only one more goal in that playoff, a nothing goal in a 7-2 loss to the Islanders in the second round. These days the 61-year-old is an executive with the Finnish team Tappara Tampere, a team that has won the past two SM Liiga championships. (Ken Campbell)

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