The game of hockey has changed dramatically over the years due to new rules being introduced and the speed and skill of current day players. However, a great goaltending performance can be a thing of beauty to watch and discuss no matter in which era it occurred. The goaltending position has evolved over the decades and netminders now wear much more equipment to help them save 100 mile-per-hour shots. It’s generally hard to compare eras unless you were actually around to see hockey games of yesteryear.
Still, record books and newspaper accounts can help out in some regards and we’re able to do some research to dig up the 15 best single-game goaltender performances in NHL history. Some of these goaltenders were winners while others lost their games and several of the top 15 performances resulted in shutouts. These include regular-season and playoff contests and will always be remembered by the fans and players who witnessed the games and participated in them.
There have been hundreds of fantastic goaltending performances over the years and it’s hard to narrow them down to the best 15. But these ones stood out over the majority due to the number of shots and the quality of scoring chances the netminders faced in each of the contests. Some of these goaltenders are Hall of Famers while others may be regarded as nothing more than journeymen. However, it just goes to show that you don’t need to be one of the best goalies in the world to come up with a world-class performance.
15. Jonathan Bernier
There’s no doubt that Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier of Laval, Quebec has struggled at times this season, but he’s been playing much better since spending 10 days in the minors. Leafs’ fans shouldn’t forget that Bernier was one of the league’s top goalies when he first joined the club and gave them some excellent performances. His best came just before Christmas in 2014 when he stopped all 43 shots that came his way down in Dallas on December 23rd and led Toronto to a 4-0 victory. Nazem Kadri scored the opening goal after just 55 seconds and the Leafs added three more on just 25 shots. Bernier did the rest by stopping everything the Stars threw at him, including 19 saves in a frantic third period. The 6-foot-tall netminder faced both quantity and quality when it came to the Stars’ shots and refused to be beaten.
14. Tim Thomas
American native Tim Thomas was an aggressive goaltender who did anything necessary to stop the puck from crossing his goal line. Thomas led the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup title in 2010-11 by beating the Vancouver Canucks. He was the star of the postseason and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP along with his Stanley Cup ring. However, his best game of the postseason came in an earlier round when he made 52 saves against the Philadelphia Flyers in a 3-2 overtime victory. The Eastern Conference semifinal contest was tied 2-2 in the third period and Thomas made sure it stayed that way by making 22 saves in that stanza to give his teammates the chance to win it in overtime.
13. Mike Smith
Even though Mike Smith was chosen way down the list at number 161 in the 2001 NHL Draft, he’s become a solid big-league goalie. Smith’s best game in a Coyotes uniform came back on April 3rd of 2012 when he managed to pull off 54 saves to lead his team to a 2-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Smith saw a lot of rubber that day as his reflexes and acrobatics preserved not only a victory, but also a shutout. Smith has rebounded well this season after struggling in 2014-15, but the 33-year-old native of Kingston, Ontario will be hard pressed to repeat his performance against the Blue Jackets for the rest of his career.
12. Semyon Varlamov
Recording a shutout is rewarding at anytime in a goalie’s career, but when you have to make more than 50 saves to do it then you can really say it was earned. Russian netminder Valeri Varlamov must have been sweating buckets back on January 6, 2015 when he turned aside all 54 shots the Chicago Blackhawks could muster at him. Varlamov was brilliant during the regular-season game at the United Center in Chicago. The Avalanche jumped out to a 2-0 lead after just 77 seconds of the first period and then watched in awe as Varlamov made save after save for the win. He made 17 saves in the first period, 21 in the second, and 16 in the third while his teammates took just 24 shots at the other end of the ice.
11. Martin Brodeur
Martin Brodeur will go down in NHL history as one of the greatest goalies ever. He holds numerous awards and records including the most saves recorded in an NHL career. Brodeur came up with several masterpieces over the years, but his best performance took place at Madison Square Garden on January 12th of 2010. He led the New Jersey Devils to a 1-0 shootout victory over the hated New York Rangers and all-star goalie Henrik Lundqvist that day by making 51 saves. It was the most shots Brodeur had faced to that point of his career and it earned him his 107th career shutout. Lundqvist also had a great game by making 45 stops.
10. Curtis Joseph
The St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs met each in the Campbell Conference semifinals back in the 1992-93 season with the Leafs emerging victorious in seven games. Blues’ goalie Curtis Joseph, who ended up starring with the Leafs later in his career, was the main reason the series went all seven games with his best performance actually coming in a 2-1 loss on May 5, 1993. The Leafs fired 63 shots at Joseph in the series opener with Joseph saving 61 of them. The game at Maple Leaf Gardens ended in double overtime when Leafs’ captain Doug Gilmour scored his famous wraparound goal. Joseph of Keswick, Ontario was actually just as good the next game when the Blues also won 2-1 in double overtime as he stopped 57 of 58 Leafs shots.
9. Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Montreal native Jean-Sebastien Giguere had the best game of his career during the 2002-03 playoffs when he was called upon by the Might Ducks of Anaheim to face the Detroit Red Wings, who were the reigning Stanley Cup champions. This was Giguere’s playoff debut and he set an NHL record at the time in the opening game by making 63 saves in a 2-1 triple overtime win at Joe Louis Arena. It was the most saves ever recorded by a goalie making his first postseason appearance. Roberto Luongo would later break it by making 72 stops in his playoff debut. Giguere was hot all the way to the finals that year and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP even though the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup in seven games.
8. Sam LoPresti
Sam LoPresti may have played in a different era, but his goaltending feat back on March 4th, 1941 was still quite an impressive one. The Chicago Blackhawks’ netminder from Elcor, Minnesota stopped 80 shots against the Boston Bruins that year. And to make the achievement even more impressive was the fact that he was a 24-year-old rookie. It was obvious that LoPresti didn’t get much help at either end of the ice that day as the Hawks were beaten 3-2. However, it’s hard to imagine what the score might have been if it wasn’t for LoPresti’s heroics. He made 41 saves before the Bruins scored their first goal and the 83 shots he faced in the contest is an NHL record for a 60-minute game.
7. Roberto Luongo
He’s now stopping pucks with the red hot Florida Panthers, but Roberto Luongo’s best game came as a member of the Vancouver Canucks back on April 11th, 2007. This was actually Luongo’s first-ever playoff game and he made 72 saves in it against the Dallas Stars. He may have let in four goals along the way, but Luongo’s team managed to pull out a 5-4 win in quadruple overtime in this Western Conference quarterfinal showdown. Luongo of Montreal was one save away from the playoff record of 73 after allowing four goals on 36 shots in regulation time and shutting the Stars out with 36 saves in the marathon overtime session.
6. Ben Scrivens
Ben Scrivens of Spruce Grove, Alberta has had a few high and low points during his NHL career going from journeyman to starter and then being sent down to the AHL. Scrivens has a new lease on life this season as the Montreal Canadiens recently acquired him in a trade Edmonton with for Zack Kassian. Scrivens posted respectable numbers as a backup with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings before earning the starting job with Edmonton last season. He lost that position earlier this campaign though when the Oilers sent him down to the minors. Scrivens’ career highlight came on January 29 of 2014 when he made 59 saves against the San Jose Sharks in a 3-0 shutout. The performance set a new record for the most saves during a regular-season whitewash. Scrivens stopped more than 20 shots in each of the first two periods and then recorded another 17 saves in the third while playing for one of the NHL’s worst teams.
5. Normie Smith
Normie Smith is in the history books for playing in net during the longest game in NHL history. This contest took place back on March 24th, 1936 when the Detroit Red Wings finally managed to end the affair against the Montreal Maroons with the only goal of the game after 176 minutes of hockey. The game ended in the sixth overtime period in the first game of the Stanley Cup semifinals when Mud Bruneteau scored. Smith recorded the win and shutout by making 92 saves in the game, which is a playoff record for all eras. The goal came after 116 minutes and 30 seconds of overtime.
4. Troy Grosenick
There have been about two dozen goalies who have recorded shutouts in their NHL debuts, but Troy Grosenick’s performance back on Nov. 16th, 2014 is the most memorable. The San Jose Shark’s netminder suited up for a road game against the Carolina Hurricanes and the undrafted free agent had a night to remember. Grosenick of Brookfield, Wisconsin, didn’t get much help from his teammates and was forced to make 45 saves to earn a 2-0 victory. The goalie, who was just 25 at the time, set a new NHL record with his achievement by making the most saves for a debut shutout in the modern era. The game was still on the line until the Sharks sealed it with an empty-net goal with just eight seconds left. Unfortunately, Grosenick was injured in his very next start and hasn’t played another NHL game since.
3. Kelly Hrudey
Kelly Hrudey of Edmonton, Alberta holds the current NHL record for the most saves in a single playoff game. Hrudey set the mark when he stopped 73 shots back on April 18th, 1987 in a 3-2 New York Islanders victory over the Washington Capitals. To make the performance even more dramatic, it was the seventh game of the playoff series and it was won at the 68:47 mark of overtime. Hrudey was out of this world for about six and a half periods that night and the game is known as the Easter Epic. He finally got some help from Pat LaFontaine as he scored the winning goal at about 2 am on Easter Sunday.
2. Ron Tugnutt
The Quebec Nordiques may not be around anymore, but the club left some lasting memories on hockey fans. One of the club’s best-ever performances was registered by goaltender Ron Tugnutt of Scarborough, Ontario during his second NHL season. Tugnutt faced the Boston Bruins back on March 21st, 1991 and finished the contest with an incredible 70 saves to earn his team a highly-unlikely point. The game was televised live from coast to coast with most fans in disbelief as Tugnutt made close to six dozen saves, with many of them being of the “unbelievable” variety. To make the achievement even more amazing was the fact that Quebec was one of the league’s worst squads that season with just 18 wins. Meanwhile, the Bruins had 100 points and 44 wins.
1. Dominik Hasek
Dominik Hasek of the Czech Republic is considered by most to be the top goalies of the modern-day NHL era. Hasek stood on his head several times during his career with his best performance arguably coming on April 27 of 1994 when the Buffalo Sabres squared off against the New Jersey Devils and a rookie netminder named Martin Brodeur. This turned out to be one of the greatest goaltender duels in playoff history as Hasek stopped all 70 shots he faced in a 1-0 win in the sixth game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Both goalies earned shutouts in regulation time with the Sabres finally beating Brodeur in overtime on their 50th shot of the game.
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!