By the 1988 season, Lemieux had further developed into an NHL star player. After playing in the Canada Cup with NHL stars like Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, Lemieux was able to realize the full breadth of his talents. In his 1988-1989 campaign, He came the closest NHL player to match Gretzky’s NHL record of 216 points in a single season, registering 199 points. At one point in the season, Lemieux registered a 5 goal night with a goal in each possible phase of the game – even strength, power play, penalty kill, penalty shot, and empty net. He was and remains the only player to ever do this.
From 1988 until 1992, Lemieux put on an elite display for the league, racking up points and awards in Gretzky-ian fashion. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992. He won the Conn Smythe both times compiling 78 points across the two postseason runs. His dominance of the game over this stretch put him, aptly, in the same category as Gretzky in his ability to take over and transform a game.
The Mario Lemieux Story
While injuries had caused issues of varying degrees for Lemieux through the beginning of his career, in the 1992-1993 season, Lemieux faced the largest obstacle of his career. After surging out to exceptional start, including a twelve game goal streak to open to season, Lemieux looked poised to challenge Gretzky’s goal and point records in his eighth season in the league.
In January, however, Lemieux initiated a two month absence after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After an aggressive radiation treatment and a twenty game absence, Lemieux returned to the ice. Despite missing significant time, Lemieux captured his second straight scoring title.
The rest of Lemieux’s career was littered with injuries and absences due to both his propensity for injuries and the complications of his radiation treatment. Still, Lemieux was able to register 600 goals in just 719 games, a pace that falls behind only Gretzky, who notched 600 goals in 718 games. Lemieux would retire in 1997 and upon his retirement, he was the only player in history to average over 2 points per game. He was immediately inducted to the hall of fame, making him one of nine players for whom the minimum waiting period has been waived.