It will be 27 years this week since the Pittsburgh Penguins set the NHL all-time record for longest winning streak by winning 17 consecutive games late in the 1992-93 season.
What sometimes gets forgotten about that streak is that it came at the very end of the season, with the 17th consecutive win coming in the next-to-last game of the regular season. The streak was officially snapped in the regular season finale when they skated to a 6-6 tie against the New Jersey Devils. They then followed that up by winning the first three games of their Round 1 playoff series against the Devils before winning the series in five games. That means they went 21 consecutive games without losing a single game, and 22 games where they only lost one. An absolutely insane run.
It all started just two games after Mario Lemieux returned from a two-month absence where he was fighting Hodgkins disease. It was during that season that Lemieux received probably the highest honor of his career.
I was reminded of this on Monday when I did my weekly Power Rankings over at NBC and looked at the most impressive statistical seasons in NHL history. Lemieux’s 1992-93 made the No. 2 spot on my list for his overall numbers (160 points in 60 games) and the fact he did it at way less than 100 percent. He overcame a 12-point deficit in the scoring race when he returned (with only a month remaining in the season) to win the scoring race by 12 points.
On March 2, 1993, Lemieux returned to the lineup in Philadelphia on the very same day he received his final radiation treatment.
As he took the ice for the game he received a standing ovation from Flyers fans at the Spectrum, something that was completely unheard of for a visiting player. And if we are being honest, many players that actually played for the Flyers.
The Penguins ended up losing the game, but it was a testament to how much respect Lemieux commanded as a player and for his fight off the ice.
That set the stage for this: Lemieux scoring five goals in Madison Square Garden, against the New York Rangers, on the night the Penguins set the record for longest NHL winning streak.
For the second time in a month, Lemieux was getting a standing ovation from a visiting crowd.
Try to imagine Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin getting standing ovations in Philadelphia and New York at any point in their careers for any reason.
Or Alex Ovechkin getting the same in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Not going to happen.
But it happened here for Lemieux, and on two different occasions within a month of each other.
The 1992-93 season may not have had the result the Penguins wanted, but it is still arguably Lemieux’s greatest performance (his 82-game point pace would have been an NHL record 218 points) and showed just how respected he was even in the homes of the Penguins’ biggest rivals.