There were four NHL playoff games on the slate last night and every one of them went into overtime.
Four different heroes got to put their stamp on hockey lore, including Toronto’s Tyler Bozak (4-3 over Washington), Nashville’s Kevin Fiala (3-2 against Chicago), Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan (4-3 win over Boston) and Anaheim’s Corey Perry (5-4 comeback victory against Calgary).
There have already been 11 overtime games in the NHL post-season, after just seven such contests in all of the first round last year.
In the history of the league there have been plenty of playoff overtime heroes. Two that come to mind scored but one goal in the extra session, Bill Barilko and Bobby Orr. Barilko’s last goal, lionized in the Tragically Hip hit “50 Mission Cap” won the Leafs the Stanley Cup in 1951. Orr’s only playoff overtime tally won the Bruins the Cup in 1972 and the photograph of him flying through the air is the most iconic in hockey.
Many productive — and not so productive — players have scored more than one OT winner in the Big Dance. Here are 10 of the most clutch extra session scorers in NHL history.
10. Jaromir Jagr
Ageless wonder Jagr isn’t just a great offensive player, he’s a dominant force in the playoffs too. The 45-year-old superstar just finished his 23rd season and in 1,711 regular season games he has 765 goals and 1,149 assists. It’s too bad that his Florida Panthers missed the playoffs, since Jagr has 201 points (78 goals) in 208 post-season tilts. Of those 78 goals, four have come in overtime. As a rookie in 1991, Jagr potted his first OT winner in just his second NHL playoff game against the New Jersey Devils. That goal gave helped the eventual champion Pens tie the series at 1-1 on the way to a thrilling seven-game victory. The next season, Jagr netted his second OT winner in first game of conference finals against Boston, later won in a sweep by the Penguins on their way to a second title. It would be another seven years before he blasted another OT winner, again against New Jersey in the sixth game of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals (eventually won 4-3 by Pittsburgh). His last came in 2000 against Washington in game 2 of the East quarters, which the Pens won in five games.
9. Mush March
Among players on this list, Harold “Mush” March was the most modest goal scorer. The tiny (5’5″) winger from little Silton, Saskatchewan played in 759 NHL games, all with the Chicago Blackhawks and scored 153 career goals (383 points). In the post-season, however, March made the most of his limited opportunities (just 45 playoff games in 17 seasons), scoring 12 goals and 15 assists. Two of his 12 strikes (both OT winners) would be pivotal to the Hawks winning an improbable title in 1934. His first sent the Blackhawks past the Montreal Canadiens in the quarter-finals, which, under an old aggregate scoring system, was the series winner. Then, in the finals against “American” Division champion Detroit, March fired his second (and last) OT winner — in double overtime — in game 4 to win Chicago’s first ever Stanley Cup.
8. Wayne Gretzky
Of all the individual feats of greatness that Wayne Gretzky performed in his lengthy NHL career, he never did score a Stanley Cup winning goal like Mush March and a few others. But, he did fire four of his record 122 playoff goals to win games in the extra period. The Great One notched his first ever OT winner in game 2 of the 1982 Smythe Division semi-finals, a 3-2 triumph over Los Angeles in a series the Oilers would win in five games. Many more playoff goals and Stanley Cups (three) would pass for Gretzky before he struck again in overtime in 1988. That year, the Oilers faced the hated Calgary Flames in another Battle of Alberta in the Smythe Division finals. His goal in overtime of game 2 gave Edmonton a 5-4 win and a 2-0 series lead (they would sweep the Flames on the way to a fourth Cup in five seasons). Gretzky would score his third OT goal during the 1991 playoffs, but he saved the best for his last in 1993 against Toronto. With the Leafs up 3-2 in the Campbell Conference finals, Gretzky stuck the dagger into the hearts of Leafs Nation with the OT winner in a 5-4 win. He would later score a hat trick in game 7 as the Kings won the game 5-4 and the series.
7. Elmer Lach
In his heyday, future Hall of Famer Elmer Lach’s achievements were often overshadowed by his more famous “Punch Line” colleague Maurice “Rocket” Richard. But, the Rocket never had the distinction of scoring an overtime goal that handed the vaunted Montreal Canadiens a Stanley Cup. In 1950, the Canadiens were just starting to build a club that would contend for a Stanley Cup, which they last won in 1946. They wouldn’t win it 1950, either, but Lach scored the first of his two overtime winners in game 4 of the semi-finals against the New York Rangers, a 3-2 Habs victory that staved off elimination (they lost in five). During the 1952-53 season, Lach, then an old man at 35 and in his second last campaign, scored 41 points in 53 games. In the playoffs, Montreal had to go seven games with a tough Chicago squad in the semi-finals before tangling with Boston in the finals. Lach had no goals in 11 games leading up to game 5 against the Bruins, with the Habs up in the series 3-1. The teams went into overtime 0-0 and 1:22 into it Lach fired the game and series winner. In the celebration after scoring the Cup winner, Lach had his nose famously broken by Richard’s errant stick.
6. Bob Nystrom
Thore Robert Nystrom was one of those “lunch bucket” guys who left everything on the ice for the dynastic New York Islanders of the early 1980s. Born in Stockholm but raised in Canada after age four, Nystrom took to hockey and was drafted 33rd overall by the Islanders in 1972. He would play his entire career with New York, scoring 235 goals and 513 points in 900 regular season games, along with 1,248 penalty minutes. Nystrom was no wilting daisy in the post-season, scoring 39 times and assisting on 44 others in 157 total games. The rough-and-tumble “Mr. Islander” would have a knack for scoring clutch goals in the post-season. His first of four OT winners came in game 5 of a spirited seven-game quarter-final set with Toronto in 1978 (won 4-3 by the Leafs). The Islanders were just building on something then and in 1979 they made it all the way to the semis, where Nystrom potted his second OT winner against the Rangers in game 4 (the Isles were eliminated in six). Nystrom’s last of four OT winners would be huge. After scoring one in the 1980 semis against Buffalo, Nystrom had a career high eight heading into game 6 of the finals against Philadelphia and the Isles up 3-2 in the series. His goal in overtime handed the Islanders their first ever Stanley Cup and was the start of a four-year run.
5. Jacques Lemaire
Over his lengthy and successful NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens, Jacques Lemaire was one of the quietly efficient guys who was often overshadowed by fellow future Hall of Fame luminaries like Jean Beliveau, Yvon Cournoyer and Guy Lafleur. For his part, Lemaire was just as lethally effective in the regular season (835 in 853 games) as he was in the playoffs (139 points in 145 games). Lemaire scored 61 goals in the post-season, three of them in overtime to win games for the Habs. Lemaire, who would be part of an astounding eight championship teams in Montreal, fired his first extra session winner in game 5 of the 1968 semi-finals against Chicago, which turned out to be the series winner. His second OT snipe came seven days later in game 1 of the finals against St. Louis as the Habs won 3-2 on the way to a series sweep and the third of four Cups in a five-year span. Lemaire’s last heroic OT tally was his finest. The Canadiens were leading the Boston Bruins 3-0 in the 1977 finals and in game 4, the teams went into overtime deadlocked 1-1. Lemaire ended the game and the series 4:32 into OT, handing the Habs a second straight Stanley Cup in a run that would last four seasons.
4. Brett Hull
To Brett Hull, the Stanley Cup-winning goal in third overtime period of game 6 against Buffalo in 1999 will be his crowning achievement in hockey. To Sabres fans, it will forever be remembered as the time they got jobbed by the referees, who should have called the old crease violation rule and nullified the marker. Whatever the case, Hull’s dramatic goal for the Dallas Stars in one of the longest Stanley Cup final games ever played was part of a terrific and Hall of Fame worthy career. The Golden Brett scored 741 regular season goals and added another 103 in 202 playoff games (which is fourth all-time). Three of his 102 tallies were overtime game-winners, including that “toe in the crease” tip in past Dominik Hasek. His first of three came early in Hull’s career when he was with St. Louis. It was in the 1989 playoffs and gave the Blues a 4-3 win over Minnesota in game 1 of the Norris Division semi-finals. The second, in 1992, propelled the Blues to a 5-4 2 OT victory and a 2-1 series lead over Chicago that they would relinquish and lose in six games.
3. Maurice Richard
The man for who the league’s leading goal scorer every year was a clutch playoff goal scorer during his outstanding career. The Rocket fired 82 goals and added 44 assists in 133 post-season contests to put him eighth in playoff scoring and fourth in goals per game at .617. Six of his 82 playoff markers were scored in overtime, putting him second all-time in that category. None of them were Stanley Cup clinchers, but notching six was no mean feat in the old Original Six days. His first was scored in game 1 of the 1946 finals, won 4-3 by the Habs in a series they would take 4-1. Five years later he would perform Herculean feats in the playoffs, scoring an amazing three OT goals. Richard notched back-to-back OT game winners in games 1 and 2 of the 1951 semi-finals against Detroit, the first in quadruple overtime and the second in triple OT as Montreal went on to win the series 4-2. Then, in game 2 of the finals against Toronto, Richard potted the OT winner as the Habs tied the series 1-1 (only to lose in five games on Bill Barilko’s famous tally). His sixth and last overtime winner came during the fifth game of the 1958 finals against Boston, which broke a 2-2 series tie and propelled the Canadiens to a six-game triumph.
2. Joe Sakic
Burnaby Joe has the distinction of being the NHL’s leader in all-time playoff overtime goals with an astounding eight. In all, the Hall of Famer scored 84 post-season goals (seventh all-time) and won two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche in a 20-season career. His first two OT scores came during the Avalanche’s first championship season in 1996, when he scored in game 5 of the conference quarter-finals against Vancouver and then fired another in game 4 of the conference semi-finals against Chicago. He would score a career high 18 that season and win his only Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. Perhaps his greatest virtuoso post-season performance came in the non-championship 2004 playoffs. The San Jose Sharks took a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference semi-finals when the Avs captain went to work. In game 4, he scored the only goal of the game to get Colorado on the board. Then, in game 5, he would score in regulation as the teams skated into overtime tied 1-1. At the 1:54 mark of the extra frame he struck again, bring the Avalanche to within a game of San Jose (Colorado lost game six).
1. Patrick Kane
In an era of tight defensive systems and hard-to-come-by goals, Patrick Kane has thrust himself, in our opinion, into the position of the greatest playoff overtime scorer of all-time. The wiz from Buffalo has already scored 50 playoff goals (in 126 games) and has won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks. Ten percent of his 50 post-season tallies have come in OT and the first one was a doozy. The Blackhawks were leading the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in the Stanley Cup finals and to that point Kane had scored nine goals and 16 assists to lead all Chicago scorers. In regulation he assisted on two goals as the Hawks and Flyers battled to a 3-3 tie. At 4:06 of overtime, Kane sent Blackhawks fans into a frenzy, ending a 39-year Stanley Cup drought with his 10th goal of the playoffs. He’s since added four more overtime strikes to give him five (and counting), which ties him for third all-time with Glenn Anderson.