The 25 Most Unforgettable Goals in NHL History
Goals win hockey games. In the long history of the NHL, there have been countless goals scored, but here is a look at the 25 most memorable.
There are many ways for a goal to be "memorable." It can be the skill and excitement exhibited on the play itself—a great move by player that just makes your jaw drop. It can be a milestone goal, setting a new record or it can be a goal that wins a playoff game or even a Stanley Cup.
Any list like this is bound to cause some controversy. My readers know me, so please, bring it! Discussing these lists is always part of the fun. Let me know what you think of this list and any you feel that I missed or deserved inclusion, but please say why.
Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy the 25 most unforgettable goals in NHL history.
Bonus: Bobby Orr vs. Atlanta
This is a bonus video that didn't make the list, but wow, what a goal. NHL regular season, 1974-75, Bruins vs. Atlanta Flames at the Boston Garden.
Just sit back and watch what made Bobby Orr so special...
25. Darren McCarty Scores the Cup Winner in 1997
Darren McCarty was not known as a goal scorer. In fact, he never quite topped the 20-goal mark in a season during his 15-year NHL career.
While he was known more for dropping his gloves than using his hands to score goals, McCarty scored his impressive goal-scorer's goal, which ended up being the Stanley Cup winner for the Red Wings in 1997.
24. Brett Hull's Controversial Cup Winner
It's the most memorable goal in Dallas Stars history. Brett Hull beat Dominik Hasek in OT to win the first and so far only Stanley Cup title in franchise history.
But ask any Sabres fan and they will insist Hull was in the crease before the puck and therefore, the goal should not have counted.
Whether it should have counted or not, it's a historic and memorable goal by a Hall of Fame player that won a Stanley Cup.
23. Bobby Clarke's OT Goal in Game 2 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final
This goal changed the momentum of a series. To set the scene, the Bruins were ahead in the series 1-0 and Game 2 was in overtime.
Bobby Clarke scored this overtime goal to even the series at 1-1, the first time an expansion team ever won a game in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Flyers went on the win the series 4-2, and this goal helped make it possible.
22. Bob Bourne Goes Coast to Coast Against the Rangers
Speedy Bob Bourne scored this memorable coast-to-coast goal in the second round of the 1983 playoffs against the arch-rival New York Rangers.
The Islanders went on to win the series in six games and later won their fourth straight Stanley Cup that year.
21. Lanny McDonald Scores in OT of Game 7 to Oust the Islanders
The New York Islanders finished with 111 points in 1977-78 and were considered serious contenders for the Stanley Cup.
They got into a very difficult quarterfinal series with an upstart Toronto Maple Leafs team led by Darryl Sittler, Tiger Williams and Lanny McDonald, who scored this overtime game-winner in Game 7 to complete the upset.
20. Pavel Bure's OT Goal Sinks the Flames
The Vancouver Canucks made a surprising run to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final. It wouldn't have happened without this goal by Pavel Bure, which eliminated the favored Flames in the opening round of the playoffs.
It was Game 7 in overtime, and it gave Vancouver the momentum in needed to begin a their long playoff journey.
19. Petr Klima's Triple-OT Goal Gives the Oilers a Big Win in Cup Final
Petr Klima barely played in overtime during Game 1 of the 1990 Stanley Cup Final between the Oilers and Bruins, since head coach John Muckler considered him a defensive liability.
But as the game dragged on to double and even triple overtime, Muckler gave Klima a shift. The fresh legs must have helped, as the talented Czech scored the game winner to put the Oilers up in the series 1-0.
18. Teemu Selanne Sets a New Rookie Record for Goals in a Season
Teemu Selanne burst onto the NHL scene in 1992-93, finishing his rookie season with an NHL-record 76 goals.
This memorable tally broke Mike Bossy's rookie record and completed a hat trick for "The Finnish Flash."
His celebration is almost as memorable as the goal.
17. Pat LaFontaine Wins 'The Easter Epic'
The Washington Capitals and New York Islanders played one of the more memorable games in NHL history on the night before Easter Sunday in 1987. It was Game 7 of the Patrick Division semifinal. The winner would advance; the loser would be eliminated.
Goalies Bob Mason and Kelly Hrudey battled for 128:47 before Pat LaFontaine scored on a long rebound in the fourth overtime to allow these exhausted teams to finally stop playing.
Mason made 72 saves in a losing cause, in a game that began at about 7:35 p.m. and ended the next morning at 1:58 a.m.
16. Ken Morrow's OT Game Eliminates the Rangers
The New York Rangers and New York Islanders squared off in one of the most exciting hockey games ever played on April 10, 1984.
It was the fifth and deciding game of their Patrick Division semifinal series. The Isles had won four straight Stanley Cups and were gunning for a fifth. The Rangers had lost to the Isles in the playoffs for the past three seasons and were aiming for revenge under head coach Herb Brooks.
The Isles led 2-1 before Don Maloney tied the game on a controversial goal in the closing seconds and sent the game to overtime.
Both teams had some great scoring chances in the extra session before the game was won by the least likely of goal scorers, defenseman Ken Morrow. Morrow had just 17 career NHL goals in 550 games, but he scored 11 career playoff goals in 127 games.
I apologize for not having a video that includes just the winning goal, but these clips will give you a taste of how exciting that overtime period was if you choose to watch and enjoy it.
15. Daryl Evans Wins 'The Miracle on Manchester'
The Los Angeles Kings completed one of the most improbable comebacks in Stanley Cup history in Game 3 of their 1982 playoff series with the Edmonton Oilers.
Edmonton led 5-0 entering the third period before the Kings fought back and tied the game with just five seconds left to force overtime.
Rookie winger Daryl Evans scored this game winner 2:35 into overtime to complete "The Miracle on Manchester" and give the Kings the victory.
Los Angeles went on to win the series 3-2 and upset Wayne Gretzky and the heavily favored Oilers.
14. Steve Smith's Own Goal Sinks the Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers won four Stanley Cups in five years from 1984-1988. The one year they didn't win it was 1986, when the were eliminated in the Smythe Division finals by the Calgary Flames in seven games.
The deciding game was played on Smith's 23rd birthday, but it wasn't a lucky night for the rookie defenseman. Smith went behind his own net and tried to pass the puck to a teammate, but instead it bounced off the back of goalie Grant Fuhr and into the Edmonton net, giving the Flames a 3-2 lead.
Perry Berezan was credited with the goal, which ended the Oilers' chances to win a third straight Stanley Cup.
Steve Smith went on to become a solid defensive defenseman and won three Stanley Cups with the Oilers before retiring in 2001. But he remains best remembered for this unfortunate mistake that may have cost the Oilers a chance at winning five straight Stanley Cup titles.
13. Bill Barilko Scores His Last Goal
Maple Leafs defenseman Bill Barilko is the stuff of hockey legend.
Barilko played five seasons for the Leafs during which they won the Stanley Cup four times.
On April 21, 1951, Barilko scored the overtime, Cup-clinching goal against Montreal goalie Gerry McNeil.
That same summer, Barilko went on a fishing trip with a friend and was reported missing. His body was not found until 11 years later and remarkably, the Leafs did not win another Stanley Cup until after Barilko's body was discovered.
This goal and that tragic coincidence made Barilko famous.
12. Ron Hextall Becomes the First Goalie to Shoot and Score
Many NHL goalies had tried to shoot a puck into the opposing net, but not a single one succeeded until Flyers goalie Ron Hextall scored this empty-net goal against the Bruins in 1987-88.
Billy Smith of the Islanders was the first NHL goalie to be credited with a goal, but he was awarded that tally when he was the last Islanders player to touch the puck and a member of the Colorado Rockies shot the puck into his own net.
Hextall became the first goalie to score a playoff goal a year later.
His intense and tough style of play made him a fan favorite in Philadelphia.
11. Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!
The unlikeliest of heroes scored a double-OT, game-winning goal for the New York Rangers that propelled them to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994: third-line winger Stephane Matteau.
The Rangers and Devils were in double overtime of the seventh and deciding game of one of the best playoff series ever played when Matteau swooped behind the net and beat a young Martin Brodeur with a wraparound to end the game and send the Rangers to the final against Vancouver.
Once there, they won their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
The Rangers seemed to have the game won before New Jersey tied the game in the waning seconds and sent the contest to overtime.
Howie Rose made one of the most famous radio calls in hockey history on this goal, which can be heard on this video.
10. Bobby Nystrom's OT Goal Wins the Isles Their First Stanley Cup
Bob Nystrom scored the most famous goal in Islanders history on May 24, 1980, when he beat Flyers goalie Pete Peters in overtime to give the Isles their first Stanley Cup title.
It was Game 6 of the final series, and Nystrom's goal helped the Isles upset the favored Flyers, who had set an NHL record with a 35-game unbeaten streak and finished 25 points ahead of the Islanders in the regular-season standings.
Nystrom's goal started a dynasty, as the Islanders went on to win four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83.
9. Guy Lafleur Takes Advantage of Too Many Men
The Boston Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Final in both 1977 and 1978 under head coach Don Cherry, but both times they were defeated by the mighty Montreal Canadiens.
In 1979, these two teams met again, this time in the semifinal, and the series went to a seventh and deciding game.
The Bruins were clinging to a one-goal lead at the Montreal Forum when they were called for an infamous too many men on the ice penalty, which gave the Habs a power play late in the third period.
Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur scored this goal to force overtime and the Canadiens never looked back, as they went on to win their fourth straight Stanley Cup after defeating the Rangers in five games.
8. Jagr Fakes out the Blackhawks
Jaromir Jagr faked out all five Blackhawks on the ice to score this incredible goal in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final.
The Penguins swept Chicago to win their second straight Cup that year.
7. Yzerman's Game Winner Gives St. Louis the Blues
Steve Yzerman scored a lot of incredible goals, but none were more memorable than this dramatic slap shot that gave the Red Wings a double-overtime win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference semifinals.
Yzerman stole the puck from Wayne Gretzky and blasted it past goalie Jon Casey to clinch the series win for the Wings.
A year later, the Red Wings captain led Detroit to their first Stanley Cup win in 42 years, the first of three he would win as a player.
6. Bob Baun Scores OT Winner on a Broken Leg
Leafs defenseman Bob Baun broke his leg in the third period of Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Final, but he returned to the ice to score the overtime game winner.
The Leafs went on to win the Stanley Cup in seven games, giving them their third straight championship.
Baun was never known as a goal scorer, but he was one of the hardest-hitting defensemen of his era. Baun scored only 37 goals in 964 career NHL games, but he will always be remembered for this vital goal that helped the Leafs win another Stanley Cup.
5. Lemiuex Dazzles the North Stars
Just watch and admire the power, size, speed and skill of Mario Lemieux as he scores this amazing goal against the Minnesota North Stars in 1991.
"Mario the Magnificent" captained the Penguins to their first of two straight Stanley Cup wins that year.
4. 'The Rocket' Becomes the First to Score 50 Goals
Maurice "The Rocket" Richard is one of the best goal scorers in the history of the game.
In 1944-45, Richard set the standard when he became the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season, which back then was 50 games long.
To tell you how incredible Richard's accomplishment was, he finished this season with 18 more goals than the next highest goal scorer in the league and set a standard for all hockey players that followed.
3. Gretzky Passes Howe with Goal No. 802
With this goal against Vancouver, Wayne Gretzky became the NHL's all-time leading goal scorer with 802, surpassing boyhood idol Gordie Howe's 801.
"The Great One" finished his NHL career with 894 goals and 2,857 points in 1,497 games and still holds the all-time goals and points records.
2. Gretzky Gets 50 Goals in Just 39 Games
Rocket Richard set the standard with 50 goals in 50 games back in 1944-45 and Mike Bossy equaled it in 1980-81, but the following year, Gretzky obliterated the record, scoring 50 goals in just 39 games.
He set the record by scoring five goals in this game against the Philadelphia Flyers (love those long pants). This clip shows all five goals, including the record-setting empty-netter.
1. Bobby Orr Flies Through the Air
Bobby Orr scored the most memorable goal in NHL history when he "flew through the air" to defeat the St. Louis Blues less than a minute into overtime in Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final. The goal clinched the Bruins' first Stanley Cup title since 1941.
Orr won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP that year and won it again in 1972 when the Bruins won their second title in three years.
The famous photograph of this goal helped make it the most memorable in NHL history.