On This Date in Sports October 12, 1976: Five for Murdoch

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Don Murdoch continues to spark new life to the New York Rangers, becoming the second rookie in NHL history to score five goals in a game. Murdoch scores five goals as the Rangers beat the Minnesota North Stars 10-4 at the Met Center in Bloomington. The only other rookie with a five-goal game was Howie Meeker of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1947. Don Murdoch got off to a blazing start, scoring eight goals in his first four games. He appeared on the way to winning the Calder Trophy before tearing his Achilles Tendon in February. 

The New York Rangers were a team in transition as they celebrated their 50th anniversary. New General Manager and coach John Fergusson designed new uniforms for the Rangers that carried the team's shield, removing the traditional diagonal script. The fans did not take well to the change but were thrilled by the play of their new star Don Murdoch, who was bringing new excitement to the Rangers, who had missed the playoffs in 1975. 

Don Murdoch was born on October 25, 1956, in Cranbrook, British Columbia. After playing his junior hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Murdoch was drafted sixth overall by the New York Rangers in the 1976 NHL Draft. He made an immediate impact on the Rangers, scoring two goals in his first game as the Rangers beat the Minnesota North Stars 6-5 at Madison Square Garden. In his second game, Murdoch scored again as the Rangers beat the Colorado Rockies 5-3 on the road.

Following a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, the Rangers skated into Minnesota to close an early-season three-game road trip. Pat Hickey gave New York an early lead at 1:12 in the first period, while Bill Hogaboom tied the game 25 seconds later. Ken Hodge and Ron Polls scored one minute apart to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead a short time later. After a goal by Roland Erickson, Hodge scored again to make it 4-2 in favor of the Rangers after the first period. 

Don Murdoch netted his first goal in the second period, extending the lead to 5-2. However, with goals by Glenn Sharply and Tim Young, the North Stars again made it a one-goal game. That is when the player affectionately called Murder killed the North Stars, scoring twice to end the second period to complete his first career hat trick. After a goal by Rod Gilbert, Don Murdoch added two garbage-time goals to reach five goals and equal the record set by Howie Meeker with the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 8, 1947. 

Don Murdoch was well on his way to winning the Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the Year before he tore his Achilles Tendon in February. He would finish a close second to Willi Plett of the Atlanta Flames. Murdoch had 56 points in 59 games before the injury, scoring 32 goals. Don Murdoch would never reach the level of success he showed as a rookie, as he had trouble staying healthy while dealing with demons of the ice. Murdoch was suspended half of the 1978/79 season after being caught with cocaine by a customs official in Toronto.