You have to go way back in the history of the NHL to discover who scored the most goals in one game. The NHL started in 1917 and the record for most goals in a game, which has stood ever since, was set in 1920. The game was different back then – and we will get into that later on in the post.
Who scored the most goals in one single NHL game? The record goes to Joe Malone who scored 7 for the Quebec Bulldogs in 1920. The record in the modern NHL is 6 goals by Red Berenson of the St. Louis Blues in 1968 and Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1976.Embed from Getty Images
Let’s look at each of these nights and see what made them so special.
Most Goals in a Single NHL Game: Joe Malone – 7 goals
Joe Malone was one of the earliest stars of the NHL. In his career he would win scoring titles, 3 Stanley Cups, and be elected into the Hall of Fame. As well, he would earn the nickname of “Phantom” Joe Malone for his ability to sneak by the opposition
The hockey feat that Joe Malone is most known for is his 7 goals in one NHL game. On January 31, 1920 as a player for the Quebec Bulldogs Joe Malone scored 7 goals in a 10-6 victory over Toronto.
Malone even had an 8th goal that night but was called off due to an offside. Malone was later quoted as saying “the thing I recall most vividly is that it was bitterly cold”. Source
Some of the records Joe Malone owns:
- Highest goal per game scoring average in a season (2.2/game or 44 goals in 20 games in 1917-18)
- Most goals in one game (7)
- Most games played with 5 or more goals (5 times)
- Fastest player to score 100 goals (62 games)
How did Joe Malone score 7 goals in one game?
The media coverage for games in 1920 is not like what we have today. In fact, the way hockey was played was quite different back then, as well. Here is a fuller write-up on some of the ways early hockey was played.
However, a few things to point out is that the game was much more about stickhandling and end-to-end rushes. There was little passing, and the goalies were not nearly as good as they are today.
As well, teams only had 10 players on them, and it was quite common for a player to play 50+ minutes a game.
All of these factors contributed to Joe Malone being able to score 7 goal in one game.
It wasn’t common for players to score a lot of goals in one game in the early NHL, but there were 4 times a player scored 6 goal games in a game in the early NHL, one in the Original 6 era, and only two since 1968.
What is striking about the time period in that Malone set his record is that Newsy Lalonde (another superstar of the day) set the record for 6 goals in a game only 3 weeks earlier. As well, Joe Malone would have another 6 goal game just over a month later in March.
My assumption is that Joe Malone did not think he set a record that was going to last for the next 100 years, because hockey at that time was given to being able to have a lot of goals by one player at one time. However, has hockey evolved it became less and less likely that one player could score so many goals in a game.
Here is a list of the players who have scored 6 or more goals in the NHL:
|Jan 31, 1920
|January 10, 1920
|March 10, 1920
|Jan 26, 1921
|Feb 3, 1944
|Nov 7, 1968
|Feb 7, 1976
Most Goals in Modern NHL Single Game
Red Berenson – 6 goals
Red Berenson scored 6 goals for the recently expanded St. Louis Blues against the recently expanded Philadelphia Flyers on November 7th, 1968.
Berenson who had never even scored a hat trick in his previous 6 NHL seasons was able to score 6 on that magical night in Philly. Just about as surprising as the 6 goals was the chanting of the Philadelphia fans of “We want Red, We want Red”. Who has ever heard of a Philadelphia crowd cheering for anyone – even their own players?! Source
Not to take anything away from Berenson’s accomplishment, but the league had expanded from 6 teams to 12 teams the previous year so there would have been an obvious decrease in the overall quality of player in the NHL.
This would have surely contributed to Berenson being able to score 6 goals in one game.
Darryl Sittler – 6 goals, 4 assists for 10 points
Embed from Getty Images
The most notable 6 goal performance in hockey history undoubtable belongs to Darryl Sittler.
What makes this one standout?
Well, Sittler managed to add 4 assists to his 6 goals, which set a record of 10 points in one NHL game.
Nobody before or after has managed to get more than 8 points in a game.
How likely is it that a player will ever break Joe Malone’s record?
I’m not going to say it is impossible to break, but near-impossible is probably the right term.
There are a bunch of players in the NHL who have scored 5 goals – Gretzky, Lemieux, Sundin, Kurri, and Trottier.
The most recent 5 goal games in the NHL are:
- Mika Zibanejad 2020
- Patrik Laine 2018
- Johan Franzen 2011
- Marion Gaborik 2007
So it seems like 5 goal games are about a once in a decade occurrence.
So how hard would it be for a player to get 2 more goals to tie Malone or 3 more goals to pass him?
I would say pretty much impossible.
With how tight and low-scoring games are in the current NHL it would take a miracle for it to happen.