The National Hockey League was founded in 1917, and in the 103 years since, teams have achieved some truly remarkable feats—some representing incredible success, others setting benchmarks for failure. The record books are full of statistics that tell the stories of these astonishing teams and how they set those marks. Here are five NHL team records you might find difficult to believe if they weren’t recorded in official sources.
1. Most Playoff Overtime Games Won in a Single Season
The 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens were certainly not favorites at the beginning of the playoffs when they took to the ice against the Quebec Nordiques in the first round. With a record of 48-30-6, the Habs had finished third in the Adams Division, behind both the Bruins and the Nordiques. And, true to form, the Canadiens lost the first game in overtime and the second by a score of 4-1.
But then something amazing happened. In Game Three, Montreal scored in overtime to win 2-1 and thus began a series of dramatic victories that would put them in the Stanley Cup Finals. After dropping those first two playoff games, the Habs won the next 11 in a row, 7 of them in overtime, to defeat the Nordiques, the Sabres, and the Islanders. (They dropped Game Four to the Islanders before clinching that series.)
In the finals, Montreal met Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings, who took Game One 4-1. But the Habs won the next three—all in overtime—before winning the Cup with a 4-1 victory in Game Five. Incredibly, 10 of Montreal’s 16 playoff wins came in overtime. Their only overtime loss was in the very first game of Round One. The next highest number of OT playoff wins in a season is 7, shared by the 2002-03 Anaheim Ducks and the 2001-02 Carolina Hurricanes.
2. Worst Goal Differential in a Single Season
At the start of the 1974-75 season, the Washington Capitals were an expansion team playing their first season in the NHL. In every professional sport, new franchises often struggle to rise to the level of competition of their more-experienced peers. But the Caps were particularly awful, finishing with a record of 8-67-5, winning just one of their 40 road games (each a record for failure). But most amazing was their goal differential. Over 80 games, the Caps scored 181 goals, slightly more than two per game. But they gave up a remarkable 446 goals (another record), or more than five-and-a-half per game. That’s a -265 goal differential.
Looking at some of the scores that season, you can see how this happened. They gave up six goals three times in the first five games of the season. On November 7, they lost to the powerhouse Bruins 10-4, and they would go on to concede 10 goals three more times, 11 goals once, and 12 goals twice. Their offensive record isn’t even in the bottom 10 of all time, but the horrific defense more than compensated for it.
3. Most Goals by a Team in a Single Season
Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s won four Stanley Cups (1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988), and along the way, they scored a simply incredible number of goals. In the history of the NHL, a team has scored more than 400 goals in a single season only five times. All five of those teams were the Oilers, featuring Gretzy. During the 1983-84 season, when the Great One put the puck in the net 87 times, the team scored 446 goals, which broke the previous record (held by the 1970-71 Bruins) by 47 goals! The other four goal-filled seasons were 1985-86 (426 goals), 1982-83 (424 goals), 1981-82 (417 goals), and 1984-85 (401 goals). Only four other teams have topped 380 goals in a season.
4. Most Penalties in a Single Game
The Oilers and Gretzky also took part in a game that set a record most participants probably are not proud of. On February 28, 1990, Edmonton took the ice against Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings at the Forum in L.A. Within the first two minutes of the game, there were two major fights, and things actually went downhill from there. There were 21 minutes of penalties in the first period alone. Late in the second period, an eight-man brawl sent one player to the hospital with a broken cheekbone, resulted in 42 minutes in penalties, and both teams being sent to the locker rooms to gain control of their emotions. The 3:22 left in the period was added to the third.
All told, there were 86 penalties given out (45 for the Oilers, 41 for the Kings) breaking the record of 84 set by the Bruins and North Stars in 1981. Seven players were ejected from the game, and there was a final brawl with just 41 seconds left in the game.
Oh yeah, the Kings won 4-2, and Gretzky had a goal and two assists.
5. Most Goals in a Single Game
The NHL was founded in 1917 as a five-team regional league, comprising the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Arenas, and Quebec Bulldogs. However, the Bulldogs were unable to play for the first season, due to financial reasons. During the 1919-20 season, the Bulldogs were just awful—ending the season in last place with a record of 4-20-0 and -86 goal differential—despite the presence of Joe Malone, who led the league in goals with 39.
On March 3, 1920, the Quebec City-based Bulldogs met the Montreal Canadiens and took a beating that has not been repeated in the century since. Four Canadiens players scored three or more goals in a 16-3 shellacking. At the end of the first period, the Habs led 4-0. That scoreline was hardly respectable, and there was certainly nothing historic about it. But a 7-goal barrage in the second was followed by 5 more in the third. No other team in NHL history has put the puck in the net 16 times in a single game, but two have come close: In 1944, the Detroit Red Wings shut out the New York Rangers 15-0, and the Minnesota North Stars Crushed the Winnipeg Jets 15-2 in 1981.