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Where Jeff Carter’s four-goal game ranks in Penguins history

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Think this 16-season NHL veteran didn’t have any career milestones left to hit? Think again!

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Pittsburgh Penguins
Jason Zucker (16) and Jared McCann (19) congratulate Jeff Carter (77) on his power play goal against the Buffalo Sabres on May 6, 2021.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When Jeff Carter was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers at 11th overall back in 2003, his teammate John Marino was just six years old.

We didn’t just say that out to make him (and us) feel old, but to emphasize how much he’s accomplished. In 16 NHL seasons, he’s played over 1,000 games and scored nearly 400 goals. He’s won two Stanley Cups (2012, 2014), led the NHL in game-winning tallies (12 in 2008-09) and scored eight hat tricks.

But one thing Carter has never done is score four times in a single game— that is, until May 6, 2021.

Today, he can claim a milestone that even Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have yet to reach. So, where exactly does Carter’s four-goal outing against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday evening rank in franchise (and league) history?

  1. Carter’s outing against the Sabres marks the 420th time in NHL history that a player has scored four times in one game, and the 56th time since Carter was drafted in 2003.

Only one four-goal game in that span of 2003-2021 was scored for the Penguins. Chris Kunitz tallied a quartet in Washington on Feb. 3, 2013. (We’re talking regular-season, of course; we’d never forget Jake Guentzel.)

2. Carter is just the 11th player in Penguins franchise history to record a four-goal game.

The other 10 are a list of familiar names in Paul Gardner, Mike Bullard, Mario Lemieux, Randy Cunneyworth, Kevin Stevens, Joe Mullen, Luc Robitaille, Petr Nedved, Jaromir Jagr and Chris Kunitz.

Of this list, Lemieux is the only player who topped four goals. He scored five goals three times (1988, 1993, 1996).

3. Carter is the eighth skater in Penguins history to record at least three goals of the four at even strength. The only two to score all four at even strength were Cunneyworth (March 3, 1987 at Quebec) and Lemieux (Jan. 26, 1997 at Montreal). Stevens, Mullen, Robitaille, Nedved and Jagr all registered an even-strength hat trick among their four goals.

4. Carter is the fourth player in this shortened 2020-21 campaign to score four goals, following Winnipeg’s Andrew Copp (March 24), Nashville’s Rocco Grimaldi (March 25) and Detroit’s Jakub Vrana (April 22) into this season’s record books. Carter and Vrana were both trade deadline pickups for their respective teams.

5. Of those players who have scored four this season, Carter completed his quartet the fastest thanks to a head start. Just under five minutes into the second period, he’d already secured his ninth career hat trick.

He clocked his fourth goal in 43:02 of playing time, compared to Copp (57:34), Grimaldi (57:29) and Vrana (55:48), who all finished the feat in the final minutes of the third period.

In fact, Carter is the fastest to reach four goals since Nov. 24, 2018, when former Winnipeg Jet Patrik Laine hit the marker in 36:02 of playing time.