Kessel, 35, played in his 989th straight NHL game, a streak that began on Nov. 3, 2009, when Kessel was a member of the Leafs. That tied the record established by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle last season, a streak that ended on March 29, 2022.
Kessel is scheduled to play in 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 a cool thing, obviously. It means I played a lot of games, right?” Kessel said before Monday’s contest. “I don’t know. I just try to play no matter what. I’ve been fortunate over the years.”
On coach Bruce Cassidy’s third line at the outset of the game, alongside forwards Michael Amadio and Brett Howden, Kessel was on the ice for the opening draw, and after a quick whistle, six seconds in, he hopped onto the bench.
Kessel appeared to score his first goal as a Golden Knight — and the 400th of his career — later in the first period. But it was overturned on an offside call. Later that period, he assisted on Nicolas Roy‘s power-play goal that opened the scoring.
Yandle, who retired after last season, shattered Doug Jarvis’ NHL record run of 964 consecutive games that ended in October 1987. As soon as Yandle set the new mark, many assumed Kessel would be the one to catch him. The winger entered his first season with the Golden Knights having played 982 straight games.
Kessel said there were times when he was worried his streak could end.
“Oh yeah, there’s been plenty of those. But we’re here now,” he said. “There’s obviously a lot of luck. There are some nights you could have missed throughout the time.”
The closest Kessel came to having the streak end wasn’t for an injury. On March 8, Kessel played one 30-second shift against the Detroit Red Wings to keep his streak alive before hopping on 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 keep the streak going.