There's nothing like the NHL playoffs! The toughest postseason in sports creates heroes and goats to be cherished and hated for years to come. A playoff OT goal makes you an instant legend. No one cares if you scored zero goals and spit on your own fans in the regular season as long as you push your team one win closer to the holy grail.
The playoffs are already a tough grind, and an endless overtime is even more so. Due to exhaustion and usually poor ice surfaces you generally see goals scored in the first or last few minutes of each overtime period. Fatigue has a way of evening things out and many unlikely players step up with the big goal. Overtime goals scored in the first extra frame are met with exhilaration; a hard-fought game is over in the blink of an eye, while the longer games tend to feel anti-climactic; the unexpected end to a marathon (with tired fans no longer able to buy alcohol). Whatever the case, they tend to be memorable.
As a young’un, I remember watching Steve Yzerman blast a bullet past the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 overtime. This moment has always stuck with me, obviously because it was a high-profile game with an amazing shot, but also because of my brother. For some reason my Vancouver-born sibling was a huge Brett Hull fan. He sure loved watching that guy sit around and wait for one-timers. This goal was a dagger to his heart so deep that I felt it and it has continued to resonate with me; that is the power of an overtime goal. An interesting note on that goal: Gretzky was playing for the Blues at the time and was actually on the ice for that goal. The puck was on 99’s stick but he lost control of it. I look back at it as a symbolic gesture. An unintentional passing of the torch from one Great one to the next.
But there will be no Yzermans and Gretzkys on THIS list. No! This is a time for the underdogs. The gritty, blue-collar grinders and fringe scorers who found the perfect time to get one of their few career postseason goals.
So get out the zamboni and clean that ice, we’re not leaving here until someone scores!
15 Shaun Van Allen, Game 1, 2003 Eastern Conference Finals
It took Shaun Van Allen 55 games to score his first playoff goal, but it was well worth the wait. Martin Havlat set it up with a gorgeous pass right on the money for an easy tap in past Martin Brodeur.
Brodeur would get his revenge however, as they would go on to win the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games. Still, it was a nice memory for Van Allen in his last playoff year of his career.
14 Eric Belanger, Game 4, 2001 Western Conference Quarterfinals
Eric Belanger had to wait a few minutes before he was allowed to fully celebrate this goal. The refs waved it off immediately and then went upstairs to confirm the goal. Everyone in the building was puzzled as to why he waved it off initially, we never really got an explanation.
The color-man called Belanger a “young rookie journeyman” who had played for several minor-league teams in the past few years. A nice story as he scored his first NHL playoff goal ever to cap a 3-0 comeback and tie the series at 2-2. The Kings would come all the way back and defeat Detroit in six.
13 Trent Klatt, Game 1, 2003 Western Conference Semifinals
Klatters would score more than 20 just once in his career, and even spent some time in the AHL after that. But he managed to click with the Sedin twins in their earlier years in Vancouver, becoming the beneficiary of their many beautiful setups.
His biggest goal came against Minnesota in Game 1 of the second round of the 2003 Playoffs. At 3:42 of overtime, he deflected a Sedin (who else) shot to take the game. This exciting goal would give Vancouver fans some more false hope that would inevitably be smashed into millions of pieces.
12 Fernando Pisani, Game 5, 2006 Stanley Cup Final
Both Pisani and his Oilers entered the 2006 Playoffs as underdogs. Pisani had scored career-highs that season but they were still only 18 goals and 37 points. Nevertheless, he and his plucky squad went on a Cinderella run to the Finals before succumbing to the equally plucky Hurricanes.
Any other season and Pisani would be a surprise overtime hero, but not this one. Pisani actually lit the Playoffs on fire, topping all scorers with 14 goals and five game-winners!
By the time they got to overtime in Game 5 of the final, Pisani would've been many people's choices to get the goal for Edmonton, but it still was spectacular to see, and shorthanded on top of that.
The whole thing was nuts. Pronger and Peca in Edmonton? Both Edmonton and Carolina were in the Finals after missing the playoffs the previous season, and BOTH would miss the playoffs the NEXT year.
Blame the lockout.
11 Petr Klima, Game 1, 1990 Stanley Cup Final
Game 1 of the 1990 Stanley Cup Final between the dynastic Edmonton Oilers and the chowderhead Boston Bruins. This was the longest game in finals history, lasting 15 minutes into the third overtime before an unlikely hero finally sent everyone home at 1:23 AM.
Petr Klima was perhaps the most ‘oily’ of 80s Oilers in that he was all offence and no defence. He had been benched already in the game because of his play, ironically this would get him on the ice for the winner. Since the game had become a marathon, Klima’s benching left him one of the freshest men in the game.
This goal is actually all MacTavish and Kurri, who gained entrance into the zone with some nifty moves. Bob Cole accurately calls it as “Klima catches up”, gets a beautiful pass and floats a seeing eye shot through two pairs of legs to take Game 1.
As he’s known in Beantown, Peter F’n Klima!
10 Uwe Krupp, Game 4, 1996 Stanley Cup Final
Those long overtimes seem to bring out the surprise goal scorers. Perhaps fatigue has a way of leveling the playing field. It took three overtimes and 119 shots before a goal went in, and it was the Cup winner.
The Avalanche were a team loaded with offensive superstars. So it shocked everyone when a 6-foot-6 defenceman who only scored three goals in the playoffs popped the most important goal of the year.
Krupp scored with a slapper from the right point after a face-off. He did it in perfect stay-at-home defenceman fashion:“I tried to get rid of it as fast as I could”.
Yes you did Kruppy, you sure did.
9 Darius Kasparaitis, Game 7, 2002 Eastern Conference Semifinals
This had that creepy sound of a team clinching a series on the road. The disappointed crowd contrasted with jubilation on the ice reminds me of too many heartbreaks as a Canucks fan.
Darius Kasparaitis is most known for his funny name, a fight with Lindros at the World Cup of Hockey and his devastating hits. He is definitely NOT known for scoring goals, as he averaged about two per season. But he is definitely known for this goal.
Like many on this list, Kasparaitis won it with a harmless looking wrister. The second it went in, Hasek immediately skated away from the net rather than sit there dejected. I love that about him. To me it showed leadership, not to dwell on the past but to get pissed off and quickly move on.
Kasparaitis made his goal even more memorable by performing the Penguin ice slide, which was quickly turned into a Penguin pile by his jubilant teammates.
8 Stephane Yelle, Game 4, Western Conference Final
Most Stanley Cup winners have a Yelle in their lineup. The gritty two-way center who wins faceoffs and shuts down the opposition’s best. Rob Niedermayer and Samuel Pahlsson were so good at it in Anaheim every team wanted one after their Cup win. But we’re not talking about Anaheim, we’re talking about Yelle and the Avalanche in 2001.
Yelle had previously been foiled on a potential overtime winner in Game 3 of their series with St. Louis. He hesitated just long enough for St. Louis Blues’ goalie Roman Turek to deflect his shot. But the hockey gods would allow Yelle a chance to redeem himself in Game 4, giving his team the all-important 3-1 series lead. From there, a more likely overtime hero emerged in Game 5 (Joe Sakic) to send the Avs to the Stanley Cup Final.
Yelle’s sweet deflection was one of the 16 game-winners Colorado would score that year on the way to their second Stanley Cup!
7 Bill Barilko, Game 5, 1951 Stanley Cup Final
The Leafs could sure use another player like Bill Barilko. The fearsome defender helped the Leafs to four Cups in just five years!
In an epic series against Montreal in 1951, each of the five games went into overtime. The OT winner Barilko scored in Game 5 would turn out to be the last goal of his life. Barilko went on a fishing trip to Quebec in the off-season, but their plane tragically went missing. The wreckage would not be discovered until 11 years later. In a somber coincidence, the Leafs hadn’t won a Cup since Barilko’s disappearance, but would break their drought the same year the wreckage was discovered.
6 Scott Walker, Game 7, 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Not only was it his first ever playoff goal, but it was the first time he ever scored on the Bruins.
‘The Wild Thing’ Scott Walker had always been a fan favorite for his energetic and physical style. He even popped two 25-goal seasons with Nashville, but his offensive contribution was usually considered a bonus rather than an expectation, especially considering Nashville claimed him off Vancouver in the Expansion Draft.
But the biggest goal of Walker’s life would come as a member of the Hurricanes in the 2009 playoffs versus top seeded Bruins. In overtime of Game 7, Walker would head to the net and pick up a rebound for the series clincher. The look on Bruins President Cam Neely said it all.
5 Matt Carkner, Game 5, 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Everyone loves a Masterson Trophy nominee! Matt Carkner had played eight long years in the minors hoping to fulfill his NHL dream. After trying to make the Senators as a winger, he was placed on defence in an exhibition game and managed to stick. Carkner was loved as a tough player who stuck up for his teammates. A fantastic story of an Ontario kid playing realizing his dream for the home-town team.
While facing elimination against the Penguins in 2010, Carkner scored his first playoff goal to keep his team alive. The shot had eyes as it pinballed its way to the back of the net.
Pittsburgh would ruin the story by winning the next game.
4 Richard Park, Game 6, 2003 Western Conference Quarterfinals
This was a ‘Wild’ series to say the least. Colorado was the heavy favorite going in but were upset in Game 1 by a tenacious Minnesota. The Avalanche would begin to dominate the series, gaining a 3-1 lead. But Jacques Lemaire’s Wild were not out. After pulling Dwayne Roloson for Manny Fernandez in Game 4, they would claw their way back to force a Game 7 and eventually eliminate the favored Avalanche.
Park, who had never scored more than 14 goals in a regular season, ended up slipping one past Patrick Roy in Game 6 overtime. From there, Andrew Brunette scored the overtime winner in Game 7.
Did these goals also eliminate Roy from the NHL? The fiery goaltender would extinguish his NHL career after this loss.
3 Sergei Krivokrasov, Game 4, Western Conference Semifinals
You’d think losing Tony Amonte to injury would be devastating, but not if Sergei Krivokrasov is around!
In 1996, the Blackhawks were facing the powerhouse Avalanche in the second round. Eric Daze created a turnover and dished off to Amonte’s understudy for a top corner wrister. It was his first ever postseason point. He had these words to say.
"It's my first playoff goal and I feel so great. I’ve played three games in three months now”
He did it for Tony and he felt so great.
2 Randy McKay, Game 4, 1995 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
The pesky Devils of 1995 were a turning point in NHL history. Their highly effective systems play forced all NHL teams to start paying more attention to the X’s and O’s.
A big part of their success that spring was due to the Crash Line of Holik, Peluso, and McKay. Their persistent forecheck gave teams fits and directly resulted in this goal.
A sleepy Bruin defender took a little too long behind the net and paid for it. McKay and his cronies swooped in, stealing the puck to seal the game.
MckKay with Arnott and a first for Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner. Those two would form the offensive nucleus for yet another New Jersey Stanley Cup.
1 Alec Martinez, Game 7, 2014 Western Conference Final - Game 5, 2014 Stanley Cup Final
Alec Martinez claims the no.1 spot because not only was he an unlikely overtime hero, but he did it twice in series deciding games last year. On a Los Angeles Kings team with names like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty and Marian Gaborik, no one would quite expect Alec Martinez to play such a large role in the Kings' Stanley Cup win.
Martinez did have 11 goals in the 2013-14 season, but still no one expected him to be the hero once, much less twice.
In the Kings' epic Western Conference Final series against Chicago, the Kings were in jeopardy of blowing a 3-1 series lead, having allowed the Blackhawks to even the series, forcing a Game 7 back in Chicago. In a back-and-forth battle, the Kings got a tying goal from Gaborik to force overtime.
In the extra period, Alec Martinez wristed a harmless looking shot at Corey Crawford. The shot didn't reach Crawford, as it deflected off defenceman Nick Leddy and sailed over Crawford's shoulder. The goal silenced the building in which L.A's season had ended the previous year on Patrick Kane's overtime winner.
Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final was a double overtime thriller in which each team missed many chances to put the game away in the extra session. Most notable was Rick Nash missing an open net, his shot barely deflected wide by the outstretched stick of Slava Voynov.
Minutes later, the Kings broke out on a 3-on-2 rush. Running out of space, Tyler Taffoli wisely placed a shot on the far-side pad of Henrik Lundqvist, searching more for a rebound, rather than a goal. It was the smart move, as Lundqvist kicked the puck out, but right on the stick of Martinez, who was the man left alone on the rush. Martinez buried the puck past King Henrik to give the Kings their second Stanley Cup in three years and cemented himself as an overtime hero, as lightning struck twice.
Look back at some of the Stanley Cup winners scored in overtime: Bobby Orr, Jacques Lemaire, Bob Nystrom, Brett Hull, Jason Arnott, Patrick Kane... and Alec Martinez. Quite a story.
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