Who Scored the Most Goals in an NHL Game? Scoring in the NHL

Posted on May 20, 2024 by Dan Kent
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If you've ever seen a hockey player score a hat trick during a game, you know how exciting it is for the team and the fans. 

Scoring three goals during a single game seems like a lot, and that's because it is during this modern era of hockey that has evolved from the game of the past. However, there have been situations where players have scored much more than three goals in a game. In this article, Let's review some of the details of the highest-scoring games and players in the National Hockey League.

Who scored the most goals in one game in hockey?

Joe Malone scored a whopping seven goals during a single NHL while he played for the Quebec Bulldogs. Of course, the game was different back then, but it's an impressive feat nonetheless.

 The most recent occurrence of a player scoring six goals was back in 1976 with Darryl Sittler, who also collected four assists on the same night.

The player with the most goals in a single game

Joe Malone was an early star in the NHL, and he would go on to win a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1923-1924 season. On the night that he scored seven goals, his Quebec Bulldogs were playing against Toronto, and the Bulldogs would eventually win the game 10-6.

Joe Malone

See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Even more surprisingly, Joe Malone would have had the 8th goal that same night if it hadn't been called for being offside by the official. Even without adding another one to his total tally, his record has stayed strong for over a century, and no one has been remotely close to breaking it.

Joe Malone went on to play 126 games during his career and would collect an impressive 143 goals during this time. The Quebec native played from 1917 until 1924 and was later inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame for his impressive career.

Who scored the most goals in the NHL with one team?

Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has the most goals ever with a single team and will likely go down in history as the greatest goal-scorer of all time. Ovechkin will likely pass Wayne Gretzky as the all-time leader in goals scored in the National Hockey League. This record was once said to be very unlikely to be broken. The Oilers were lucky enough to get Wayne Gretzky on a personal services contract, meaning he was never even drafted into the NHL.

Considering that Ovechkin has done this all with a single team is remarkable. Suppose he does break the goal-scoring record, with all of his tallies coming from a single team. In that case, that record will be nearly impossible to break outside of a generational goal scorer playing a multi-decade career with the same team as Ovechkin did.

Who has the most goals in a single-season NHL?

Wayne Gretzky holds the record for most goals scored in a single NHL season with 92. He did so during the 1981-82 season with the Edmonton Oilers.

Although Wayne's total goal-scoring record is likely to be broken by Alexander Ovechkin, it is doubtful his record for goals in a season is ever touched. The closest any players have gotten in the last thirty years were Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne, who would score 76 and 73 goals during the 1992-93 season, respectively.

How many 5 goal games did Gretzky have?

Wayne Gretzky would put up four 5 goal games during his NHL career.

Considering Wayne is often considered the greatest player of all time, this highlights how difficult it is to score that much in a single game in the National Hockey League.

Alexander Ovechkin, which has an excellent chance of passing Wayne Gretzky as the all-time goal leader in the National Hockey League, has never scored five goals in a single game in the National Hockey League.

In this more modern era of hockey (the 2000s and onwards), no player has collected six goals in a single game. 

However, a five-goal game isn't a super rare occurrence. It has happened four times in the last five years, with the most recent occurrence being Tage Thompson of the Buffalo Sabres doing it during the 2022-2023 NHL season.

It's interesting that from 2007 to 2017, only two instances of a player reaching the five-goal milestone. Since then, the past five years have seen four different players reach the same achievement.

If the trend continues, a player may reach six goals again within this decade. The goaltenders are more skilled these days, which means offensive players need to up their game and refine their shooting and accuracy skills.

What is the highest-scoring NHL game ever?

The highest-scoring game in the National Hockey League was the Edmonton Oilers versus the Chicago Blackhawks in 1985. The game would have a combined 21 goals, including two hat tricks from the Edmonton Oilers players Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson, and Wayne Gretzky would record seven assists.

hockey games

Because of the reduction in overall NHL scoring, it is doubtful that the 21-goal game will ever be removed from the highest-scoring game in NHL history.

What are the most goals scored by one team in an NHL game?

The Montreal Canadiens would score 16 goals against the Quebec Bulldogs during the 1919-1920 season. This record will likely never be touched, and there have only been a few instances in the last fifty years where it has come close.

In the 1981 season, the Minnesota North Stars scored 15 goals on the Winnipeg Jets. In the 1983 season, the Edmonton Oilers would score 13 goals on the New Jersey Devils.

What are the most goals scored in one period in an NHL game?

The Buffalo Sabres hold the record for the most goals scored in a single period with 9. They did so versus the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1981 NHL season, and the nine goals all came in the second period. They would go on to beat Toronto by a score of 14-4.

The closest this record has been to being broken in recent times was during the 1999 season when the Washington Capitals would go on to score eight goals on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period.

How hockey has evolved over the years

Due to teams having fewer players on them back then, it wasn't uncommon for each player to be on the ice for upwards of 50+ minutes during the game, thus giving them more scoring opportunities. The shifts are shorter these days, and even the best players spend more time on the bench than they do on the ice over the 60-minute game.

Combined with the fact that the rules were different and the goalies weren't on the same level that we see now, it isn't surprising that we don't see that kind of high goal-scoring from current players. The teams are larger, so there isn't such a heavy reliance on one player needing to be the primary scorer for the whole team — this responsibility is shared.

As the game progresses and evolves, it's increasingly unlikely we'll see any players scoring 6-7 goals during any match. Hat tricks are rare and occurred in less than 8% of games during the 2018-2019 season.

If fans begin to throw their hats onto the ice when a player scores three goals, it's hard to imagine what the crowd would do after seven goals!

Why is NHL goal-scoring lower than its been in the past?

Back in the 80s and early 90s, you had players like Wayne GretzkyMario Lemieux, and Brett Hull, who were collecting 70 to 90 goals during a given season (Gretzky's record was 92), and in recent years, the top NHL goal scorer has been around 50 goals.

This is quite the gap, and it may leave you wondering why? Well, there are many reasons, such as goaltenders, defence-minded forwards, and general player athleticism and size.

Goalies are bigger and better than they were in years past — with the average height of a goaltender reaching a record 6'3. Their physical size and the more modernized pads, which allow the goaltender to cover more of the net while offering them increased protection, make it harder to get the puck past them.

Nowadays, there tends to be an increased focus on the team as a whole blocking shots when they're presented with the opportunity. Instead of solely relying on the goalie, you may see forwards blocking shots and having a more defensive-minded playing style.

Professional sports are an ever-changing race to the top, with teams always wanting to keep an edge and using different coaching strategies and techniques to push their players to the best of their abilities. Not to mention, rules are tweaked over the years, and this can also affect scoring.

The ever-changing game of hockey

We may still be surprised at what the ice hockey game looks like in another 10 to 20 years. The game looks much different than in the 1970s and 80s, and there's undoubtedly room for it to evolve.

Players will naturally find ways to evolve along with the game and increase their chances of scoring and defending their net. Goaltenders will continue to develop their skills and equipment, and padding will likely change along the way, as it has over the past several decades. As long as Joe Malone's record is in place, NHL players have something to strive towards, and it's a record that young players can look up to and dream of.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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