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Ranking the 10 Most Clutch Goals in NHL History

Carol SchramFeatured Columnist IVDecember 13, 2016

Ranking the 10 Most Clutch Goals in NHL History

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    In NHL hockey, a "clutch" goal impacts the outcome of a game or a playoff series dramatically. It comes when the stakes are high, often out of nowhere. Clutch goals are scored by superstars and by role-players. For either, they can define a career.

    Hockey captures our imaginations in these spectacular moments. They happen in a flash but stay in our memories forever.

    Thanks to modern video technology and, these days, YouTube, legends grow ever larger as we can re-live these extraordinary plays again and again.

    Here's a look at the most "clutch" goals in NHL history.

    Do you have a favorite that didn't make the list? Share it with us in the comments below.

10. Uwe Krupp: 1996

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    June 10, 1996: Game 7 vs. Florida Panthers, Stanley Cup Final

    Goal: 4:31 of third overtime

    Avalanche win 1-0 and win Stanley Cup

    We've never waited longer for a Stanley Cup to be awarded than we did on June 10, 1996 at Miami Arena.

    In their first year in Colorado, the relocated Quebec Nordiques were blossoming with top-tier young talent like Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. The final piece of their Stanley Cup puzzle arrived in a winter trade, when Patrick Roy demanded to be moved from Montreal.

    The Avalanche cruised through the playoffs and had the Florida Panthers on the brink of elimination in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. But the Panthers would not go quietly. It took more than five periods before the game's first goal was scored.

    Colorado's big defensive defenseman Uwe Krupp broke the deadlock on an innocent-looking play. The Avalanche's first Stanley Cup is the only one ever awarded on a triple-overtime game-winning goal.

9. Pavel Bure: 1994

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    April 19, 1994: Game 7 vs. Calgary Flames, Western Conference Quarterfinal

    Goal: 2:20 of second overtime

    Canucks win 4-3 and win series 4-3. They go on to Stanley Cup Final.

    Hall of Fame member Pavel Bure was known for his goal-scoring. No marker was more magical than his double-overtime series winner against the Calgary Flames in 1994.

    The Canucks had trailed the first-round series 3-1 before coming back with three straight overtime winners to advance, capped off by Bure's beauty. The momentum of the comeback propelled the underdogs all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, where they eventually lost to the New York Rangers.

8. Mark Messier: 1994

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    May 25, 1994: Game 6 vs. New Jersey Devils, Eastern Conference Final

    Goal: 12:12 of third period gives New York Rangers 3-2 lead

    Rangers win game 4-2 and tie series 3-3. They go on to win the series and the Stanley Cup.

    Mark Messier's legacy hinges on this game, when he "guaranteed victory" after the New York Rangers faced elimination at the hands of the New Jersey Devils in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.

    Not only did the Rangers win the game and series, their captain Messier stepped up with a hat trick to personally ensure that his team would fight another day.

    The Rangers were down 2-0 in Game 6 before Alexei Kovalev got them on the board. Messier scored the tying and winning goals then added an empty-netter, forcing Game 7 and continuing his team's journey towards its first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

7. Guy Lafleur: 1979

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    May 10, 1979: Game 7 vs. Boston Bruins, Semifinals

    Goal: 18:46 of third period ties game 4-4

    Canadiens win game 5-4 in overtime and win series 4-3. They go on to win Stanley Cup.

    If you've ever seen the introduction to Don Cherry's Coach's Corner on Hockey Night in Canada, you know about this goal.

    The Montreal Canadiens had three consecutive Stanley Cups to their name when they faced off against their archrival the Boston Bruins in the 1979 Stanley Cup semifinal.

    Montreal had beaten Boston in the final the two previous years, but the Bruins had forced a seventh game in the '79 playoff. Boston had the faithful at the Montreal Forum on edge as they held a comfortable 4-3 lead late in the third period. Then, with just 2:34 to go, the Bruins were whistled for too many men on the ice. Head coach Don Cherry had muffed a crucial late line change.

    It didn't take long for Habs' superstar Guy Lafleur to make the most of the power play opportunity, rifling a slap shot past Gilles Gilbert to tie the game. Yvon Lambert would go on to score in overtime to vault the Canadiens into the final, where they'd defeat the New York Rangers in five games for their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.

6. Patrick Kane: 2010

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    June 9, 2010: Game 6 vs. Philadelphia Flyers, Stanley Cup Final

    Goal: 4:06 of overtime

    Blackhawks win 4-3 and win Stanley Cup.

    In 2010, Patrick Kane scored a goal that nobody saw but him. It gave the Chicago Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup win in 50 years.

    As you can see in the video, Kane was celebrating with his teammates in the 'Hawks zone before announcer Jim Hughson declared that the puck had slipped past Philadelphia's Michael Leighton and the game was truly over.

    Kane scored more big goals on the road to Chicago's 2013 championship, but this Cup-winner remains his most clutch effort to date.

5. Maurice "Rocket" Richard: 1952

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    April 5, 1952: Game 7 vs. Boston Bruins, Semifinals

    Goal: Richard returns from a concussion with four minutes to go and scores to give Montreal a 2-1 lead.

    Canadiens win game 3-1 and win series. They go on to lose to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Final.

    There was no "quiet room" when hockey players suffered concussions back in 1952.

    The greatest scorer of his day, Maurice "Rocket" Richard was knocked out early in the second period of Game 7 against the Boston Bruins after a collision with Leo Labine. Six stitches were needed to close the gaping wound over his eye.

    Unaware of the score, Richard returned to the bench late in the third to learn that the deciding game was tied 1-1. He took to the ice, accepted a pass from Emile "Butch" Bouchard deep in the defensive zone and threaded his way from end to end. Rocket fired the biscuit past "Sugar" Jim Henry to give his team the lead and send them on to the Stanley Cup Final, arguably the most clutch of the more than 500 goals he scored in his career.

4. Bobby Baun: 1964

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    April 23, 1964: Game 6 vs. Detroit Red Wings, Stanley Cup Final

    Goal: 1:43 of overtime

    Maple Leafs win game 3-2 and tie series 3-3. They go on to win the series and the Stanley Cup.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs were the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, but they were down 3-2 to the Detroit Red Wings when they returned to Maple Leaf Gardens for Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Final.

    Late in the game, reliable defenseman Bobby Baun was injured blocking a Gordie Howe shot.

    He appeared to be in considerable pain, but courageously returned in overtime. Baun scored the game-winner and the Leafs went on to win Game 7 by a 4-0 score and capture their third straight Stanley Cup.

    After the series was over, x-rays determined that Baun's ankle had been fractured when blocking Howe's shot. He'd been the hero of the day with a broken leg!

3. Bobby Orr: 1970

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    May 10, 1970: Game 4 vs. St. Louis Blues, Stanley Cup Final

    Goal: 0:40 of overtime

    Bruins win 3-2 and win the Stanley Cup.

    Bobby Orr's "flying goal" is one of the most iconic images in hockey history.

    The red-hot Boston Bruins were making short work of the expansion St. Louis Blues in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, but Orr's daring goal and subsequent celebration marked the beginning of a new era.

    The Bruins would be one of the dominant teams through the first half of the 1970s, before premature knee problems started to slow down one of the greatest defensemen ever to play the game. His clutch Cup-winning goal was the moment when Bobby Orr truly arrived in the NHL.

2. Bill Barilko, 1951

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    April 21, 1951: Game 5 vs. Montreal Canadiens, Stanley Cup Final

    Goal: 2:53 of overtime

    Maple Leafs win 3-2 and win Stanley Cup

    The Toronto Maple Leafs won the 1951 Stanley Cup in overtime because of defenseman Bill Barilko.

    As you can see in the video, the goal was a clutch beauty. This one stands out because of the legend that's attached.

    The summer after the Leafs' win, Barilko was headed home from a fishing trip when he died in a small plane crash in northern Ontario. He was just 24.

    The Leafs did not win another Cup until 1962, the year the wreckage of the small plane, including Barilko's body, was found. Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip tells the story in its 1992 song "Fifty Mission Cap," helping to secure Barilko's place in immortality.

1. Pete Babando, Detroit Red Wings, 1950

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    April 23, 1950: Game 7 vs. New York Rangers, Stanley Cup Final

    Goal: 8:31 of second overtime

    Red Wings win 4-3 and win Stanley Cup

    The Detroit Red Wings won four Stanley Cups in six years between 1950 and 1955. The dynasty was known for stars like Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Terry Sawchuk, but the team's great run began with a clutch goal from left wing Pete Babando.

    Babando scored just three playoff goals in his six-year NHL career. On April 23, 1950, his sudden-death tally marked the first time in history that the Stanley Cup was awarded based on a winning goal in overtime of Game 7.

    Every kid who plays street hockey has scored an imaginary Game 7 overtime-winner. In real life, only one other player has matched Babando's feat, and it hasn't happened for nearly 60 years. Tony Leswick, also of Detroit, scored his team's Game 7 overtime Cup-winner in 1954.


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