Nearly the entire sports world is on pause or cancelled at the moment, so there’s only so much us sports fanatics can do at the moment.
Something we can do, however, is relive some of the best sports moments in history and reminisce about what once was.
For this piece, I am going to turn your attention to the NHL and some of the greatest goals the league has ever seen.
Now, some disclaimers.
- I’m going to keep this list somewhat recent, with some exceptions
- This is a list of NHL greatest goals, so international hockey is left out for the time being
- This list is going to be a blend of some of the greatest goals from a talent standpoint but also some that will live in hockey lore forever
I think that’s enough disclaimers for now, other than to say this list is highly subjective and I’m sure everyone would compile a different list in their own opinions.
Without further adieu, let’s get going!
Top 10 Goals in NHL History
10. Keith Primeau’s 5OT Winner – 2000
One of my favorite thing about NHL hockey – or perhaps No.1 on my list – is playoff overtime hockey.
There’s nothing like it. Heroes are made and dreams are dashed in postseason OT, and the longer it goes the more intense it gets.
In other words, I’m a sucker for playoff OT winners, as you might be able to tell.
While Keith Primeau’s OT winner ended the third-longest game in NHL history – and longest since 1936 – it’s a goal that somehow slides under the radar as it was just the second round of the playoffs.
Primeau’s Philadelphia Flyers went on to win the round, however, before losing the Conference finals to Martin Brodeur and the historically defensive New Jersey Devils.
Nonetheless, imagine playing into the fifth overtime. That’s the eighth period of the game. Otherwise known as roughly two and a half games worth. At the NHL level. Without oxygen tanks.
Okay, maybe you get it by now, but even being able to stand at this point is impressive enough, but Keith took it one step further.
He drove the defenseman wide, pulled up, cut in, and unleashed a wrister that beat Penguins netminder Ron Tugnutt up high.
Well deserved breather after that one for big Keith Primeau.
9. Sidney Crosby Shootout Goal vs. Canadiens – 2005
Okay, this one is a shootout goal, but it’s the stage and the circumstances that surrounded this goal that makes is so memorable.
Sidney Crosby, the most hyped NHL prospect since perhaps Wayne Gretzky himself, was playing his first NHL game in Montreal against a Canadiens team that he grew up cheering for.
Not only that, but it was also the first shootout in Montreal Canadiens history after ties were eliminated from the league, and the game was on Crosby’s stick with a chance to win it.
Not only did Crosby score on a filthy backhand move with a disgusting top shelf finish, but he popped Jose Theodore’s water bottle so high that you’d have to call the Bell Centre to see if it’s landed yet.
Sid the Kid went on to post a whopping 102 points in his first NHL season, making good on an enormous amount of prospect hype after a storied junior career in the QMJHL followed by a No.1 overall selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
And he’s still at his peak after a 100-point season 13 years later as he’ll go down as one of the greatest players in NHL history.
8. Yzerman Double OT Game 7 Winner vs. Blues – 1996
The scene is Joe Louis Arena and the year is 1996. It’s Game 7 of the Conference semifinals against the St. Louis Blues.
This is right is in the midst of the Red Wings’ dynasty, a period of time when the franchise put together some of the best seasons in NHL history. The Wings went to the Stanley Cup Final three times in a four-year span, winning the final two appearances.
Although this year was the lone year in that span in which the team didn’t march all the way to the dance, this is a goal that Wings fans will remember forever.
Now, keep watching that video until you see the replays, as the video angle from behind Blues netminder Jon Casey is awesome and best exemplifies the howitzer Yzerman unleashed here.
Although the shot came from just inside the blueline, it was perfectly placed in the top corner and it’s hard to blame the goaltender after seeing that angle.
What a beauty.
7. Patrick Kane OT, Cup-Winning Goal – 2010
Like Yzerman and the Red Wings above, this one came as part of a dynasty.
The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup on this marker in 2010, and would win the trophy again twice more in a subsequent five-year span.
That said, this goal was more important than Yzerman’s. It was also one of the quirkiest scenarios surrounding a Cup-winning goal we’ve ever seen.
Roughly 98% of the building – Kane and some Blackhawks teammates aside – didn’t know what had happened as Kane skated the length of the ice surface to celebrate with goaltender Antti Niemi, who also was reluctant to believing the ‘Hawks had won the Cup.
It turns out Kane saw something almost no one else did.
From a bad angle, he threw a low wrister at the Flyers’ Michael Leighton, the puck going through the netminder’s legs and into the far side of the net where it stuck in the mesh, hidden from the rest of the world.
It was certainly en eerie silence given the goal happened on the road in Philadelphia, but Kane’s goal will always be remember for the Cup-winning goal that nobody knew about – except the man who scored it.
6. Teemu Selanne Sets Rookie Goal Record – 1993
This list is a mix of record-breakers and beauty/clutch goals, but here’s a record I truly don’t believe will every be broken.
In the 1992-93 season, a young Finn by the name of Teemu Selanne was lighting up the NHL as a member of the Winnipeg Jets, but on a cold night in Winnipeg, he really put his name in the record books.
Selanne scored two goals to tie the rookie goal-scoring record, set my Mike Bossy with 53. However, later in the game, Selanne capped the hat trick and notched the rookie goal record, all with a tip of the puck over a diving goaltender into the empty net.
Like other goals on this list, the celebration is a thing of beauty.
Not only did he set the record that year, he obliterated it.
Selanne went on to score 72 goals that season, 19 more than Bossy’s previous record. Selanne went on to enjoy a long and storied NHL career, tallying 684 goals and 1,457 points across 1,451 regular season games.
5. Mike Bossy’s 50th Goal in 50 Games – 1981
Like many on this list, Bossy was part of a dynasty as the New York Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 through 1983, but it was during their second straight Cup-winning season that one of the greatest goal-scorers in NHL history smashed a 36-year-old record.
Bossy was a goal-scoring machine in his career, scoring 53 in his rookie season in 1977-78 and never scored fewer than 51 until his final season in the 1986-87 season in which he scored 38 goals in just 63 games.
Unfortunately, Bossy was forced to retire at just 30 years of age due to a chronic back injury. He scored 573 goals in 752 regular season games and could very well have taken a run at Gretzky’s record if the injury didn’t force such an early retirement.
In 1981, Bossy was closing in on the 50 goals in 50 games record previously set by Maurice “Rocket” Richard, but after scoring 48 goals in 47 games, he went on a two-game goal-scoring drought, meaning he needed two goals in his 50th game to tie the record.
In that 50th at home against the Nordiques, Bossy went the first two periods without scoring a goal, needing two in the final 20 minutes to get to 50.
He banged home a rebound early in the period, and later fired home a wrister on his off wing to net his 50th goal in 50 games.
The running dance in celebration is one of the more iconic celebrations in NHL history.
4. Wayne Gretzky’s Record-Setting 802nd Career Goal – 1994
As we sit here today on pause and wondering if Alex Ovechkin will ever catch Wayne Gretzky as the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring leader, let’s journey back to where The Great One surpassed Gordie Howe to claim the record for himself.
At the LA. Forum on March 23rd, 1994, Gretzky’s Kings were taking on the Vancouver Canucks.
Interestingly, it was a trio of former Oilers in on the goal as Gretzky dropped the puck to Jari Kurri, who dished it to defenseman Marty McSorely who, in turn, found Gretzky on the far side while No.99 finished off with a weak-side one-timer into the empty net.
Gretzky would go on to bag another 92 goals in his NHL career split between the Kings, Blues and Rangers, and he currently sits with the NHL career goals record of 894.
3. Mario Lemieux’s Stanley Cup Final Goal vs. North Stars – 1991
This goal didn’t end a playoff game or win a Stanley, but it nearly ended the ankles of North Stars defenseman Phil Bourque.
Mario Lemieux, arguably a top-five NHL player of all-time, had it all. Size, skill and speed.
It was nearly impossible to get the puck off his stick given his 6’5″ frame combined with a gargantuan reach. The only way to defend Super Mario was to hope to maintain him and gain some sort of body positioning.
When he picked up the puck in his own end in a Stanley Cup Final game against the Minnesota North Stars in 1991, it was a 1 on 2.
He took aim at Bourque to create a one-on-one for himself, moments later turning it into a breakaway before sliding the puck into an empty cage after undressing the netminder as well.
If someone asks what Mario Lemieux was all about, summed up, simply show him this clip.
Health issues somewhat limited his career later on, but Lemieux was a special player and this goal sums that up perfectly.
2. Alex Ovechkin Sliding On His Back Goal vs. Coyotes – 2006
While this is a subjective list and you may not agree with my picks, it’s hard to argue with this one as there’s a reason it’s among the top goal on highlight reels ever since it was scored back in Ovechkin’s 2005-06 rookie season.
One year after the Penguins drafted Crosby with the top overall pick in 2005, the Capitals drafted Ovechkin with the top pick in the 2006 draft, and the two would be compared to each other for the reminder of their careers.
While Crosby’s goal-scoring ability remains elite, he is indeed a playmaker by trade while Ovi is the deadliest goal-scorer the NHL has ever seen, regardless if he is able to catch Gretzky’s record.
While he’s cemented himself in that category after years of bulging twine, it didn’t take long for Ovechkin to inform the hockey world of his special goal-scoring ability.
Sure, it was just a regular season down in the desert with the Capitals taking on the hometown Phoenix Coyotes.
Ovechkin comes down the right wing, puts the puck into the legs of the Coyotes defenseman, falls down and hooks the puck into the net when the remainder of the players thought the play was dead.
It’s not even that he burned the Coyotes’ defenseman as he was actually played perfectly, however it was the acrobatic hook-shot, if you will, that accomplished the feat.
The best part? Wayne Gretzky – the Coyotes’ head coach at the time – was there to bear witness.
1. Bobby Orr’s Cup-Winning Goal vs. Blues – 1970
Like the Ovechkin goal, no goal-scoring list is complete without the addition of perhaps the most memorable goal scored in NHL history.
There’s plenty to like about this one.
First, it’s Bobby Orr, argued as the greatest hockey player to live, but certainly regarded as the best defenseman to ever lace up the skates.
I mean, the guy put up six straight 100-point seasons from 1969-70 through the 1974-75 season before knee injuries absolutely obliterated his career.
After finishing with 135 points in that 74-75 season, Orr would sadly skate in just 36 NHL games across three seasons, the final two of which came with the Chicago Blackhawks, albeit in a combined 26 games.
In true Orr fashion, however, he managed 45 points in those 36 contests despite playing on battered knees.
That said, this is about the 1970 playoffs after Orr completed his first 100-point NHL campaign with 120 points in 76 games.
He also notched 20 points in 14 postseason contests, however it was his last point of that 1970 postseason that goes down as the most memorable moment in NHL history.
Watching Orr fly through the air with his hands above his head is also the greatest photo in NHL history, and one that will live on in hockey lore forever.
Are these the greatest goals in NHL history? Maybe not, but it’s simply a personal top 10 and I hope it provided some distraction and reminiscing about some of the best players in hockey throughout the years.