Phil Kessel made history Tuesday night when he suited up for the Vegas Golden Knights’ road tilt against the San Jose Sharks, breaking the NHL’s ironman streak with his 990th consecutive game.
Kessel surpassed defenseman Keith Yandle’s previous record of 989 and now stands alone at the top with the most consecutive games played in NHL history.
Only 380 players have ever played 990 total NHL games in their careers, making Kessel’s feat and milestone all the more impressive.
He reached another milestone in Tuesday’s 4-2 win against San Jose when he scored the 400th goal of his career, beating James Reimer on a fantastic individual effort late in the opening frame.
In Monday’s game against Toronto — when Kessel tied Yandle’s record — Kessel appeared to score what would have been his 400th goal early in the first period, only to see it overturned for offside.
But one of the most consistent scorers over the last 15 years came right back Tuesday night and made it happen, netting No. 400 at 15:51 of the opening frame.
Kessel scores No. 400 on the same night he breaks the ironman streak. What a night for Phil The Thrill #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/4TF2mNl6TT— Jillian Wagner (@JillianSydney) October 26, 2022
Since the 2006-07 season, only six other players have scored more goals than Kessel: Alex Ovechkin (731), Steven Stamkos (488), Sidney Crosby (482), Evgeni Malkin (447), Patrick Kane (431) and Joe Pavelski (425).
Less than a calendar year ago, Yandle made history when he moved ahead of Doug Jarvis with 965 consecutive games played after Jarvis held the ironman title for more than 35 years. Now, exactly nine months later, there has been another changing of the guard.
Kessel, the NHL’s new iron man, has not missed a game since his debut with the Maple Leafs back on Nov. 3, 2009.
There was a close call in March of last year, but Kessel kept his streak alive by taking one shift and then boarding a charter flight — arranged by Arizona — to fly home for the birth of his child.
His fortitude over the years and consistency as an elite scorer have been staples of his success throughout his career.
The 35-year-old is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and has 399 goals and 958 points in 1,211 career regular-season games as well as 34 goals and 81 points in 96 career postseason contests.
Vegas is Kessel’s fifth destination spanning a 17-year career.
He was selected fifth overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Kessel was diagnosed with testicular cancer during his rookie season but missed just 12 games; he was the first rookie to be awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, annually awarded to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game of hockey.”
Kessel went on to score 66 goals and 126 points in 222 games with Boston before being dealt to Toronto in the infamous trade that ultimately involved Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.
Kessel spent six seasons with the Maple Leafs, topping 30 goals four times (not including when he was on pace for 34 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign). He scored 20 goals every year and hit the 50-point threshold in all six seasons, recording both 60-plus and 80-plus points twice. In total, he recorded 181 goals and 394 points in 446 games.
Kessel was involved in his second major trade when he was shipped to Pittsburgh in 2015 in a deal involving six players — most notably Kasperi Kapanen — and multiple draft picks. Kessel played four seasons with the Penguins and scored 110 goals and 303 points in 328 games.
He played a key role on Pittsburgh’s “HBK” line with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2016 and also helped Pittsburgh lift the Cup in 2017, scoring a combined 45 points in 49 games en route to back-to-back championships.
Kessel then recorded a career-high 92 points in 2017-18, following it up with an 82-point campaign in 2018-19.
However, the native of Madison, Wisconsin once again found himself on the trading block after two shortened playoff runs with the Penguins, including a second-round loss to Washington in Vegas’ inaugural campaign.
Pittsburgh needed to clear cap space, and Kessel— whose AAV was $6.8 million after Toronto retained 15 percent in the trade — played out the rest of his contract with the Arizona Coyotes. On the offensively-challenged Coyotes, Kessel managed 42 goals and 133 points in 208 games.
He signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with Vegas over the summer.
Kessel has one goal and two assists in eight games with the Golden Knights. He is sixth on the Golden Knights in shots per 60 (8.83) and individual Corsi per 60 (14.91).
Brent Burns is the only active player even remotely within range of challenging Kessel’s ironman status with 685 consecutive games played, though Kessel’s record likely will stand for many years to come.
If Kessel remains in the lineup, he will hit 1,000 games Nov. 17 against another former team, the Arizona Coyotes.