Phil Kessel equaled the NHL record for consecutive games when he took to the ice for the Vegas Golden Knights against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.
Kessel, 35, was playing in his 989th straight NHL game, a streak that began on November 3, 2009, when Kessel was a member of the Leafs. That tied Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle’s record for the previous season, a consecutive game streak that ended March 29, 2022.
Kessel is expected to play for his 990th straight game for sole possession of the Iron Man record when the Golden Knights visit the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
“It’s obviously a cool thing. That means I’ve played a lot of games, doesn’t it?” Kessel said before the game. “I don’t know. I just try to play no matter what. I’ve been lucky over the years.”
On coach Bruce Cassidy’s third row to start the third, Kessel was on the ice alongside forwards Michael Amadio and Brett Howden in the opening tie, jumping to the bench after a quick whistle six seconds into the game.
Yandle, who retired after last season, broke Doug Jarvis’ NHL-record streak of 964 consecutive games that ended in October 1987. Once Yandle set the record, many assumed Kessel would be the one to catch him. The winger entered his first season with the Golden Knights after playing 982 straight games.
Kessel said there were times when he worried his streak might end.
“Oh yeah. There were many of them. But now we are here,” he said. “There’s obviously a lot of luck involved. There are some nights you could have missed over time.”
The closest thing Kessel came to ending the streak was not through injury. On March 8, 2022, Kessel played a 30-second shift against the Detroit Red Wings to keep his winning streak alive before boarding a charter flight arranged by the Arizona Coyotes for the birth of his daughter Kapri Mary Kessel. He returned to the team two days later in Toronto to continue the series.