Whether Sharks all-time leading scorer Patrick Marleau is worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame is a subject that can be hotly debated in sports bars throughout North America.
Monday’s performance in Colorado gave some major ammo to the side that argues in his favor.
Marleau had one of the greatest single game performances of his 19-year career, scoring four goals – all in the third period – of the Sharks’ 5-2 win over the Avalanche.
How rare is four goals in a single period? It’s happened just 12 times, the most recent of which was Mario Lemieux on Jan. 26, 1997 at Montreal, according to Elias. Just five months later, a teenage Marleau would be drafted by the Sharks with the second overall pick.
Marleau spoke with NBCSN and CSN analyst Bret Hedican after the game.
“Everything seemed to click there in the third,” he said. “Some really good plays from a lot of different players. Was able to finish them off.”
What seemed to spark Marleau was a line change by coach Pete DeBoer to start the final frame, after the Sharks had managed just four shots in the second period, and 13 through 40 minutes. Marleau was taken off of the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line, and put on the left side of the Logan Couture line, with Mikkel Boedker on the other wing.
Boedker’s hard work in getting the puck to the point resulted in Marleau redirecting a hard Marc-Edouard Vlasic pass to the front of the net to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.
He scored three more from there: a wraparound, a two-on-one with Pavelski, and a breakaway.
Switching lines is not unfamiliar to Marleau, who has played up and down the Sharks lineup this season after spending most of last season as the third line center.
“I play a bunch of different positions. Over the years you get a little experience and you know how to handle those situations,” Marleau said of his versatility. “It was a fun period.”
Vlasic said: “He was everywhere in the first two periods, and all of a sudden he exploded in the third. … He’s fast, he’s skilled. There’s a reason he can score four.”
Marleau’s second goal of the night was the game-winner, and even that was a bit historic. It was his 96th career game-winning goal, and he’s now tied for 10th all-time in that category with Mats Sundin (courtesy Darin Stephens). He is already one of just three players to have a game-winning goal against 29 other teams (Sundin, Brendan Shanahan), after getting one against Philadelphia on Dec. 30.
Four of Marleau’s five career hat tricks have come on the road, including his most recent one, also at Colorado on Nov. 20, 2011. He is just the third Sharks player to record four goals in a game, joining Owen Nolan and Tomas Hertl, and is the first to do it in a single period.
Marleau now sits just three goals from 500 in his career. Reaching that milestone seemed like a tossup to start the year, but now it’s virtually inevitable that he’ll become just the 45th player to reach that lofty mark before the end of the season.
He remains, of course, the Sharks’ all-time leader in games played (1459) and points (1059).
It all adds up to a few extra strides towards that hockey cathedral in downtown Toronto.