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Feb 23, 1952: Lach Becomes All-Time NHL Scoring Leader

Elmer Lach was arguably one of the best centers of his era. (Images: HHOF)
Elmer Lach was arguably one of the best centers of his era. (Images: HHOF)

Five hundred and forty-nine points in the current era of the NHL doesn't seem like much, but sixty years ago it was the benchmark in NHL scoring.

It was on this day in 1952 that Elmer Lach, known as the one-time star center of the Montreal Canadiens "Punch Line" set the league's all time scoring mark.

When Lach entered the game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the existing record of 448 points, set by Bill Cowley in 1946, was two points out of his grasp. He eclipsed the record by two points, with a goal and three assists.

The Saskatchewan native became the all-time assist leader, passing Cowley's record of 354 helpers, just six days earlier.

By the time Lach was approaching the record, he found himself not playing alongside Maurice "Rocket" Richard as often. Richard missed 32 games to injury in the 1951-52 season.

Many felt that without "The Rocket", the veteran center's production would taper off. It wouldn't be the case and he showed he could be a play-maker with whomever he was lined up with.

For most of this season it would be Dick Gamble, who would have a career best 23 goals that season. His other winger, taking Richards's place in February 1952 was a young rookie named Dickie Moore. Paired up with his duo, Lach was on a tear of 13 points over an eight-game span. You can throw in another rookie, Boom Boom Geoffrion, who probably benefited from a pass from "Evergreen" on occasion that season.

On that historic night against Chicago, Lach would set up Moore on three goals, for his second career hat trick. Gamble and Moore would set up their center with a second period goal, during the 7-0 rout. Gerry McNeil picked up the shutout.

A few weeks later, on March 8, the Canadiens honored their veteran with "Elmer Lach Night." The man once considered to be hiding in the Rocket's shadow proved critics otherwise, finishing third in the league in scoring that season, and leading the league in assists with 50.

Lach would retire with 610 career points. His all-time scoring record would be eclipsed the season during his final season, by Richard on December 12, 1953