Buffalo Sabers center Tage Thompson is off to a strong start to the 2022-2023 NHL season.
Entering play on Wednesday night, the Sabers center had already scored 16 goals, which tied him for sixth in the NHL, and added 18 assists to his credit. His 34 points had him inside the top ten in the NHL.
Those rankings are about to change.
Thompson scored four goals for the Sabers on Wednesday night in Buffalo’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, with all four goals coming in the first period. He finished the night with a stunning five goals in all, as Buffalo routed Columbus by a final score of 9-4.
Thompson’s first goal came at the 14:28 mark of the first period. With the Sabers already out to a 1-0 lead, winger Alex Tuch put a centering pass right in front of the net for Thompson, and the center buried it past Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo.
But he was just getting started.
After Rasmus Dahlin scored to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead — and Columbus pulled Korpisalo in favor of Elvis Merzlikins — Thompson netted his second of the first period. With just over 12 minutes left in the first the Sabers broke out of their own end, with winger Jeff Skinner feeding Tuch, who put another pass on Thompson’s stick. The center lifted a wrister over Thompson’s glove for his second of the night.
It was Buffalo’s fourth goal on four-straight shots.
Thompson’s third came a few minutes later. With the Sabers on the power play, Thompson blasted a one-timer past Merzlikins for his first-period hat trick.
You can watch the first three goals here:
But Thompson was not done scoring.
His fourth goal came later in the first period. With Buffalo holding a 5-on-3 advantage, the Sabers cycled the puck around in front of Merzlikins, before Thompson ripped another one-timer past the Columbus goalie, to give Buffalo a 6-0 lead:
Skinner and Dahlin assisted on Thompson’s fourth of the night.
The teams hit the locker rooms for the intermission with the Sabers holding a 6-0 lead, and the Blue Jackets wondering about potentially a running clock for the next two periods. But Thompson was not done, nor were the Sabers.
With under four minutes remaining in the second period, Buffalo had a comfortable 6-2 lead. That’s when defenseman Jacob Bryson dug the puck out of the corner, getting it to Tuch just inside the blue line. Tuch sent a cross-ice pass to the tape of Thompson near the point, and the center put his fifth of the night past Merzlikins:
As you can see, with that goal Thompson became just the second player in franchise history to record five goals in a single night, tying a mark set by Dave Andreychuk back in 1986.
Here is another look at Thompson’s fifth goal:
Mike Kelly, of the NHL Network, noted that Thompson’s fifth goal gave him more in one night than the bulk of the NHL has over the entire season:
Tage Thompson has more goals tonight than 73% of players in the league have goals this season.
— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) December 8, 2022
Thompson’s four first-period goals put him in rather rare company. According to the NHL, it was just the sixth time in the past 40 years that a player notched four goals in any period. The last time that happened was back in 2017, when Patrick Marleau scored four goals in the third period to power the San Jose Sharks past the Colorado Avalanche:
The second period ended with Buffalo leading the Blue Jackets 9-2.
Thompson entered the final period with a chance to net six goals in a game, which would make him the first NHL player since Darryl Sittler accomplished that feat back in 1976, for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Boston Bruins.
However, that sixth goal did not come. Thompson did not see a ton of ice time in the third period, and did not get a shot off over the final 20 minutes. Columbus did net their third and fourth goals of the night — which on most nights would be enough to win — and the final horn sounded with Buffalo on top 9-4.
Still, with the five goals — and an assist that came on Buffalo’s first goal of the night, from Dylan Cozens — Thompson recorded six points on the night. That put him just one shy of the franchise record for points in a game, set by Gilbert Perreault back in 1976, when he scored a goal and added five assists in a game against the California Golden Seals.
It was Thompson’s second six-point game for the Sabers. He scored six points — three goals and three assists — on Halloween against the Detroit Red Wings.
Not a bad start to the season for Thompson, and it certainly looks like the decision last year to move him to center full-time is paying off for the Sabers.