Since the New Jersey Devils franchise started playing in the Garden State in 1982, there have been 81 hat tricks completed by a Devils player in either the regular season or playoffs. The first one was completed by Steve Tambellini when he notched a hat trick against the Hartford Whalers on 12/3/1982. The most recent hat trick was by Blake Coleman against the Toronto Maple Leafs on 1/14/2020. 16 players have notched multiple hat tricks for the Devils. Patrik Elias leads the way with 8, followed by John MacLean with 6, Pat Verbeek with 5, and Kirk Muller with 4. Rounding out the list with 3 hat tricks each are Bobby Holik, Mark Johnson, Claude Lemieux, John Madden, Randy McKay, and Stephane Richer. Aaron Broten, Scott Gomez, Ilya Kovalchuk, Bob MacMillan, Zach Parise, and Travis Zajac have 2 hat tricks each. When it comes to playing the rival New York Rangers, the Devils have 6 hat tricks, all completed by different players. Today’s post will take a look back at each of these hat tricks.
While we’re on the subject of the Devils - Rangers rivalry, I wanted to also take a look at which Devils have completed a “Gordie Howe hat trick” a feat that is accomplished when a player gets a goal, assist, and a fight in the same game. The Devils have had 5 different players complete this feat against the Rangers. I should note that why this feat is named after him, “Mr. Hockey” himself only had 2 of these hat tricks in his great career.
Rich Preston - 11/18/1984 - Boxscore
Rich Preston isn’t a big name when it comes to New Jersey Devils history, but he did have the first hat trick against the New York Rangers. It came in his first of two seasons with the team. On November 18, 1984, Preston helped the Devils to a 6-0 victory over their rivals by scoring a goal in each period. Impressively, he did it by beating Rangers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck on just 3 shots. Those 3 goals would represent a quarter of his goals for the entire season. Preston also contributed an assist on the opening goal of the game by Rick Meagher. Other top performers include Tim Higgins and Phil Russell who had the other goals. Meagher had 2 assists to go along with his goal. Ron Low made 35 saves to pick up the only shutout of his Devils career.
Craig Wolff of The New York Times had this game recap with reaction from the players. The game report notes that the Rangers lost Don Maloney early after a battle along the boards with Devils defenseman Bruce Driver. The Devils lost John MacLean late in the game due to a fractured left clavicle. I found this quote from Rangers Captain Barry Beck interesting:
‘’This is obviously a low, low point for us,’’ said Captain Barry Beck. ‘’Losing Don and we shouldn’t be losing to the New Jersey Devils, even if they are an improved team.’’
Aaron Broten - 1/18/1985 - Boxscore
Aaron Broten may be overshadowed by his brother Neal in Devils history, as Neal was a crucial member of the 1995 Stanley Cup Championship team with 19 points in 20 playoff games and had the clinching goal in Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings. Aaron does have his own spot in this franchise’s history. Aaron was a 6th round pick of the Colorado Rockies in the 1980 draft and would come over when the franchise relocated to New Jersey. He spent 7.5 seasons with the Devils and recorded their second hat trick against the Rangers on January 18, 1985. Like Preston 2 months earlier, Broten would beat Rangers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck 3 times though he did have to do it on 6 shots. All of Broten’s goals came on the PP too. Unfortunately, this would be the only game in the Devils hat trick history that they would lose to the Rangers 9-6 as Hannu Kamppuri and Chico Resch would struggle in goal for the Devils. The Devils other goal scorers in this game included Paul Gagne, Greg Adams, and Pat Verbeek. Jan Ludvig would put in a strong showing with 4 assists.
Pat Verbeek - 3/25/1987 - Boxscore
The next hat trick for the Devils against the Rangers would come a couple of years later when Pat Verbeek had 3 goals in a game on March 25, 1987. Verbeek had an amazing career with 522 goals and 1,062 points in 1,424 regular season games. The start of that excellent career was with the Devils where he was a regular from 1983 to 1989 before moving on. This hat trick would be one of the highlights of his time with the Devils as it came in a 8-2 Devils win. He beat Rangers starter John Vanbiesbrouck with a PP goal and back up goaltender Bob Froese on 2 even strength goals. Verbeek was very efficient with these 3 goals coming on just 4 shots. Other goal scorers for the Devils included Mark Johnson with 2 and Perry Anderson, Aaron Broten, and John MacLean with a goal each. I should also point out that Broten had a monster game with 4 assists to go along with his goal. The Devils also got a lot of production out of Kirk Muller (5 assists) and Bruce Driver (3 assists). Devils goaltender Alain Chevrier had an outstanding performance with 42 saves on 44 shots. The Devils were still yet to find success at this point in their history, but moments like this certainly gave fans something to cheer for in the team’s early days in New Jersey.
Bobby Holik - 10/10/1992 - Boxscore
Now it’s time to move from the 80’s into the 90’s where the Devils really started to find success. Bobby Holik was a key player for those 90’s Devils teams after being acquired in a trade from the Hartford Whalers in August of 1992. While he is well remembered for his role on the 1995 and 2000 Stanley Cup Championship teams, Holik would make his prescence felt early in the Devils and Rangers rivalry.
In just his 3rd game for the Devils, Holik had a hat trick against the Rangers on October 10, 1992. That night, he helped the Devils to a 4-2 victory over the Rangers with 2 PP goals and an even strength goal. His 3rd goal would come just under a minute into the 3rd period and give the Devils a 3-2 lead. Holik was very involved that night with a team high 7 shots. Randy McKay had the other Devils goal, an empty netter to secure the victory with 4 seconds left. Zdeno Ciger and Claude Lemieux assisted Holik twice each. Craig Billington picked up the victory with 29 saves on 31 shots. Alex Yannis had this game recap in The New York Times. In it he has Holik’s reaction to earning his first career hat trick as well as a description of the goals:
“This is great, it’s very special,” said Holik, who scored the first hat trick of his career. “You’re satisfied when you get two, but when it’s the Rangers, it’s different. They’re rivals, so you want more.”
Holik’s two second-period goals gave the Devils the lead. His first came by tipping Stephane Richer’s shot while the Devils had the manpower advantage, and his second on a blistering slap shot from the top of the right circle off a short pass by Claude Lemieux.
Holik, acquired from Hartford in the offseason in the trade that sent Sean Burke and Eric Weinrich to the Whalers, regained the lead for the Devils by completing his hat trick from the low slot. He beat Vanbiesbrouck over the glove following a pass by Lemieux from the left side.
I have to admit that I had no idea that Vanbiesbrouck had been a part of this many hat tricks in the Devils and Rangers rivlary. My earliest Devils memories start with the 1993-94 season so while I always have known about Vanbiesbrouck’s time with the Rangers, I didn’t realize that the Devils had as many hat tricks against him as they do.
Scott Gomez - 12/26/1999 - Boxscore
Scott Gomez also wasted no time in making his mark on the Devils and Rangers rivalry. His hat trick against the Rangers came in just his 35th career game and 2nd game ever against the Rangers. It was as one of the highlights of his Calder Memorial Trophy winning rookie season, along with winning his first of two Cups with the Devils. Gomez scored his hat trick on December 26, 1999 in a game that would end in a 3-3 tie. Gomez finished the game with 3 goals and 5 shots in 19:14. Claude Lemieux and Sergei Nemchinov assisted him twice while Jason Arnott and Lyle Odelin had an assist each. Martin Brodeur made 21 saves on 24 shots that night. Looking over the boxscore, you’re once again reminded of the heavy lifting that Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens did for the Devils as each played over 26 minutes in that game. This game was also a part of the Devils impressive 23 game unbeaten streak against the Rangers from February 17, 1997 to March 21, 2001.
Joe Lapointe had this game recap in The New York Times where he notes that Gomez had been on a 15 game streak without a goal but that his linemate Claude Lemieux had some encouragement for the rookie:
‘’I said, ‘You know, you need a couple goals tonight,’ ‘’ Lemieux recounted. ‘’ ‘You’re due for some goals. You’ve been passing a lot. You’ve got to get shooting.’ ‘’
John Madden - 4/24/2006 - Boxscore
John Madden’s hat trick is notable for a few reasons. It is the most recent one the Devils have had agains the Rangers, it happened in the playoffs, and it was his 3rd and final hat trick for the Devils. It was the first playoff hat trick for the Devils since Valeri Zelepukin had one against the Montreal Canadiens in 1997. It was certainly a nice moment for a player that will always be remembered fondly by the Devils fanbase for his contributions to the 2000 and 2003 Stanley Cup Championship teams.
Madden’s hat trick against the Rangers came on April 24, 2006 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He helped the Devils to a 4-1 victory and eventual series sweep. Impressively, Madden scored 2 SH goals to go along with his even strength goal. He did so against Kevin Weekes who was in goal for the Rangers, replacing Henrik Lundqvist who had given up 6 goals in the opening game of the series. As you can see from the highlights above that Madden’s 2nd goal was knocked into the net by Rangers defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh right after the Devils killed off a two-man advantage. I should also point out that in addition to the hat trick, Madden managed to put up 10 shots in 18:14. Brian Gionta had the other Devils goal. It seems fitting that Madden’s long time linemate, Jay Pandolfo, assisted on all 3 of his goals. Paul Martin had 2 assists in 23:38 and Brian Rafalski had an assist in 28:59. Martin Brodeur made 25 saves on 26 shots.
Gordie Howe Hat Tricks
John MacLean - 3/25/1987 - Boxscore
It seems right that the Devils 1st Gordie Howe hat trick against the Rangers would come from John MacLean given his offensive skill and toughness. While MacLean is remembered for being one of the best offensive players in Devils history and a key member of the 1995 Cup team, today we are going to look back to March 25, 1987 when he had a PP goal, an even strength assist, and fought Pat Price in a 8-2 victory by the Devils. If this date seems familiar it’s because it was the same game that Pat Verbeek scored his hat trick against the Rangers.
Brendan Shanahan - 3/29/1990 - Boxscore
Brendan Shanahan’s legendary career was bookended by his time with New Jersey. In his 3rd season in the league he would pick up a Gordie Howe hat trick against the Rangers on March 29, 1990 when he had a PP goal, even strength assist, and fought Troy Mallette in a 6-4 Devils win. The toughly contested game would feature 116 PIM’s between both teams. Shanahan picked up 27 PIM at the conclusion of the 2nd period (2 for roughing, 5 for fighting, 10 for a misconduct, and 10 for a game misconduct). This melee would see John MacLean also pick up a roughing penalty while the Rangers’ Lindy Ruff and Bernie Nicholls also got roughing penalties in addition to Troy Mallette’s penalties. Shanahan’s against Mallette was the 3rd one of the game after the Devils’ Jamie Huscroft took on Lindy Ruff and Devils great Ken Daneyko took on Mark Janssens.
The other goal scorers for the Devils were David Malev with 2 and Slava Fetisov, Patrik Sundstrom, and Joe Morris with a goal each. Fetisov had a great game with 4 assists in addition to that goal. Chris Terreri picked up the win with 20 saves on 24 shots.
Randy McKay - 1/6/1999 - Boxscore
Hard-nosed Randy McKay picked up his Gordie Howe hat trick against the Rangers on January 6, 1999. He’s well remembered in Devils history for being a key veteran on the 1995 and 2000 Championship teams but he is one of the few Devils to pull off this feat in the rivalry. That night he helped the Devils to a 5-2 victory with 2 goals, a PP assist, and a fight against Chris Tamer late in the game. The fight actually was a part of a fracas that would see Bobby Holik earn a roughing penalty for the Devisl while Marc Savard and Kevin Stevens would pick up minor penalties in addition to Tamer’s major for the Rangers. You can really say that McKay made all 16:32 minutes of his ice time count in that game.
Other goal scorers for the Devils in that game included Brendan Morrison, Patrik Elias, and Jay Pandolfo. Scott Niedermayer and Lyle Odelin lead the way with 2 assists each. Scott Stevens played nearly 26 minutes in that game while Niedermayer was over 22 minutes. Martin Broduer was excellent with 30 saves on 32 shots to pick up the win.
Jamie Langenbrunner - 12/12/2008 - Boxscore
Jamie Langenbrunner is best remembered for being a crucial member of the 2003 Cup team and serving as team captain from 2007 until he was traded in 2011. He also had a Gordie Howe hat trick in this rivalry. His came on December 12, 2008 in a wild 8-5 Devils victory where he had a goal, assist, and fight against Ryan Callahan. His fight was the 4th one in the game after the Devils’ Mike Rupp took on the Rangers’ Colton Orr followed by David Clarkson against Aaron Voros, and Travis Zajac against Dan Girardi.
Top performers in this game included Brian Gionta with a goal and 3 assists, Zach Parise with 4 assists, Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus with a goal and 2 assists each, and Travis Zajac with 2 goals. Other goal scorers not mentioned yet are Johnny Oduya and Jay Pandolfo. Scott Clemmensen picked up the win in goal with 31 saves on 36 shots.
Sergey Kalinin - 2/23/2016 - Boxscore
Sergey Kalinin’s time with the Devils (and NHL) was short with 121 games played over the course of 2 seasons from 2015-17. One of the highlights of his short career with New Jersey was his Gordie Howe hat trick against the Rangers on February 23, 2016. Kalinin had a goal, assist, and a fight against J.T. Miller with a second left in the 2nd period. This fight is notable for J.T. Miller also receiving a Match Penalty due to having tape on his right hand which is in violation of the rules.
Other goal scorers that night for the Devils included Adam Larsson, Tyler Kennedy, Kyle Palmieri, and Lee Stempniak. Cory Schneider made 17 saves on 19 shots to pick up the victory.
Do you have any memories of these hat tricks? What about the players that earned them or any of the other players involved? What are some of your favorite memories in this rivalry? I want to give a big thanks to the Hockey-Reference Play Index tool which made all of this research a lot easier. Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!