Being a talented goal scorer in the NHL is one thing. Any ol' player can light the lamp to pad a four-goal lead, or score into an empty net at the end of the game.
Being a prolific game-winning goal scorer or a clutch player in general is another thing all together. Which guys do you want out on the ice with a game on the line? Who tends to make the right plays at the right times, and who does the puck follow?
Some guys have it. Some guys don't.
This is a list of the guys that do, and as always, it is purely subjective. Feel free to make your case down in the comments.
Ilya Kovalchuk is one of the top goal scorers of his generation. The New Jersey Devils don't pay him like they do to be pedestrian while games are on the line, and Kovie shows up big more often than not.
During the 2011-12 NHL season, he posted six game-winning goals, which may appear a bit pedestrian for a player of Kovalchuk's caliber. Where he really shined, however, was the shootout.
When it came down to netting goals to steal that extra point, Kovie was a killer. He scored in the shootout 11 times, with seven of those tallies coming as game-deciding markers. That means the "100 Million Dollar Man" was responsible for seven extra points for the Devils in the standings.
Players like Marian Gaborik should thrive with the extra space provided during regular-season overtime in the NHL. Four-on-four means more room to maneuver, and for a player like Gabby, it only takes a few extra inches to make something happen.
He doesn't tend to disappoint with that space either.
In 2011-12, he posted three overtime game winners (good for second in the NHL), to go along with his seven regulation game-winning goals. Gaborik scored 41 times through the season, meaning that nearly every fourth time he scored, he was winning the game for the New York Rangers.
And when he wasn't netting game winners, he was tying the score. Gaborik had three game-tying tallies as well.
In continuing with the "your best regulation players need to be your best OT players" theme, I arrive at article C: Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
If you are unaware of the talent that the big Russian possesses...welcome to hockey! I hope you enjoy your first season as a fan.
Yet Geno seems to turn it up when the games matter the most. Last season, he scored nine game-winning goals and was second only to Kovalchuk in shootout goals. While none of those were winners, the Penguins have enough weapons in the shootout that Malkin won't need to be the guy every night.
Radim Vrbata has managed to remain a consistent scoring threat despite playing on some of the more under-the-radar teams in the NHL. He's currently playing in Phoenix for the Coyotes, and when they need a game winner, he is the go-to guy.
He tied some fella in Tampa Bay by the name of Steven Stamkos in game-winning goals last season with 12. Tying the electric Stamkos in any offensive stat is noteworthy in and of itself, but tying him in game winners is impressive.
Upon viewing a Detroit Red Wings game or two, the average viewer may wonder "What exactly do they pay Johan Franzen that kind of money for again?"
The answer is solely his clutch play.
He was third in the NHL last season in game winners with 10. Mule is also quite capable of going on ridiculous scoring streaks occasionally, usually during the playoffs.
Claude Giroux is all over the place when helping the Philadelphia Flyers win hockey games—something they actually managed to do last season.
He posted two winners via shootout, two game-tying markers and five game winners.
The poster boy for clutch in the NHL is Steven Stamkos.
He scored 60 times last season, tying the game with five of those goals, and winning the game with a whopping 12 of them. Stamkos is so-so in the shootout, but that's mostly because he's winning games for the Tampa Bay Lightning before they get to that point.