Phil Kessel played in his 989th consecutive NHL game, tying the record held by Keith Yandle, when the Vegas Golden Knights played the Toronto Maple Leafs at T-Mobile Arena on Monday.
The 35-year-old forward had an assist in the 3-1 victory. He has not missed a game since Oct. 31, 2009, when he did not play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens because of offseason shoulder surgery.
“I’ve played a lot of games, and you always want to win,” Kessel said. “It’s better when you win and if we can do it tomorrow, it’d be great. … I always want to play. There’s games you’re going to miss throughout your career, but I’ve been fortunate so far.”
Kessel can pass Yandle when the Golden Knights visit the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET; ESPN). Health permitting, he’ll play in his 1,000th consecutive game against the Arizona Coyotes in Las Vegas on Nov. 17.
“When you think about it, it’s really incredible,” Vegas center Jack Eichel said last week. “You rarely see a guy play the full 82 games for the whole season. And for him to do it for so many seasons in a row, it’s pretty impressive.”
Kessel has two assists in seven games with Vegas this season, his first after signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract on Aug. 24.
“I’ve always been the guy that would rather play than sit out,” Kessel told NHL.com. “I try to play no matter what.”
Selected by the Boston Bruins with the No. 5 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Kessel has 957 points (399 goals, 558 assists) in 1,210 games for the Bruins, Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Coyotes and Golden Knights. He also has 81 points (34 goals, 47 assists) in 96 playoff games, including winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017.
“Incredible respect,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said before the game Monday. “This is a tough team sport to play in, both in physical demands, travel demands, all those sorts of things. Players deal with a lot of wear and tear on their bodies. There’s a physical wear and tear, but there’s also the mental part of it, too. So to be consistently reliable and available for your team is a very difficult thing to do. It’s a skill in of itself. And obviously, that’s what he’s done. Kessel, obviously, he’s been the model for this era of player in the history of the game, so it’s quite impressive.”
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger and independent correspondent Paul Delos Santos contributed to this report