When the NHL instituted the trapezoid following the work stoppage, restricting the areas behind the net where a goaltender could play the puck, New Jersey Devils netminder Martin Brodeur lamented that his chances of lighting the lamp again were probably over.
Back in the 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Brodeur became just the second goaltender to score a goal in a postseason game following Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers. A few seasons later, Brodeur would be credited with a regular-season goal against the Flyers -- the game-winner, at that -- when, on a delayed penalty against the Devils, one of the Flyers lost control of the puck and it ended up in his own empty net.
While the trapezoid rule has made it a lot more challenging for puck-handling goalies like Brodeur to shoot the puck down the ice at an empty net, Monday night's game between the Devils and Carolina Hurricanes showed there will still be instances where a goalie gets credited with a goal through no scoring intentions of his own, but rather a bit of misfortune on the other side.
In the final minute, with the Hurricanes leading 3-2 and the Devils having pulled Johan Hedberg while pressing for the tying goal, Cam Ward made a save and Ilya Kovalchuk collected the loose puck. Looking to pass back to teammate Adam Henrique, who was coming off the bench and into the play, Kovalchuk's attempted feed instead slid all the way down the ice and into the vacated Devils net. As Ward was the last member of the Hurricanes to have played the puck, he was credited with the goal -- becoming the 10th NHL goalie to score one.
"It would have been a lot cooler if I had shot the puck or did something like that," Ward said.
Here's a glimpse back at the previous goalies to have been credited with an NHL goal: Billy Smith, New York Islanders, Nov. 28, 1979 -- Interestingly enough, Smith didn't even start this game against the Colorado Rockies, coming on in relief of Glenn "Chico" Resch in the second period. The Islanders were trailing the Rockies 4-3 when they took a penalty and Colorado pulled goalie Bill McKenzie on the delayed call. The puck deflected off Smith's chest protector and into the corner, where Rockies rookie defenseman Rob Ramage attempted a blind pass from the boards that didn't connect and went all the way down into his own net.
The goal was originally credited to Dave Lewis, but replays later showed Smith was the last Islander to touch the puck and he became the first goaltender in NHL history to record a goal. Unfortunately for Smith, the Rockies would reclaim the lead on the ensuing power play and go on to a 7-4 victory. Ron Hextall, Philadelphia Flyers, Dec. 8, 1987 and April 11, 1989 -- The Flyers had already rallied for three goals to take a 4-2 lead over the Bruins at the Spectrum when Boston pulled goalie Rejean Lemelin for the extra attacker. Hextall, just months removed from leading Philadelphia to a Stanley Cup Final and earning the Conn Smythe Trophy despite losing Game 7 to Edmonton, picked up a loose puck and fired it down the ice into the open goal. In doing some, he became the first goalie in NHL history to score in such a fashion.
"It was a perfect opportunity for me with us being up two goals at the time," Hextall said. "I looked up and saw the open ice. I was hoping to get the puck close. I shot it and saw it roll in. It was a great feeling."
Hextall would match the feat just over 16 months later and set another first in the process by doing it in a playoff game against the Washington Capitals. The teams had split the first four games when in the waning moments of Game 5, with the Caps on a power play, Hextall controlled a Scott Stevens dump-in behind his net and cleared it the length of the ice into the empty net to help the Flyers to an 8-5 victory. It was also the first shorthanded goal by an NHL goalie. Philadelphia went on to win the series in six games.
"I was thinking goal," Hextall said. "I knew we were shorthanded and that it wouldn't be icing. I don't know how many I'll score, but it's always a thrill."
Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings, March 6, 1996 -- Criticized for his puck-handling skills less than two years earlier after his giveaway as a rookie led to the winning goal in Game 7 of a San Jose first-round upset of Detroit, this was just the icing on Osgood's redemption, as by this point he had developed into one of the top young goalies in the League. He fired the puck down into an empty net with 10.4 seconds remaining as the Red Wings held on for a 4-2 win over the Hartford Whalers.
"I've worked hard on my puckhandling since that episode," said Osgood, who also won his 10th consecutive game and recorded his League-leading 32nd victory that night. "I had a chance to go for it against Toronto (a couple weeks earlier) and didn't try. I was mad at myself afterward.
"I knew this was my chance -- and I knew it was in when I hit it."
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, April 17, 1997 and Feb. 15, 2000 -- It was Game 1 of the Devils' first-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, Brodeur's hometown team, and he made it a memorable one. With the Devils protecting a 4-2 lead and time ticking down, Brodeur played the puck at the side of his net and lifted it in the air and down the ice for the goal that would put the game away. New Jersey went on to win the series in five games.
"Unbelievable," Brodeur said. "To get one in a game like this is great."
Brodeur's second goal was not as thrilling, but nevertheless historic. Stevens, now the Devils captain, was about to be penalized but the Flyers had the puck and pulled goalie Brian Boucher for the sixth attacker. Under pressure from a heavy forecheck by Sergei Brylin of New Jersey, Philadelphia forward Daymond Langkow lost the puck off his stick and it trickled back into the open net. Brodeur had been the last Devil to touch the puck, so he got the goal, and it wound up as the game-winner -- the first in NHL history by a goaltender.
"I was kind of surprised," Brodeur said. "I was trying to get ready for the (Flyers') power play. The next thing you know they announce your name scoring the goal."
Damian Rhodes, Ottawa Senators, Jan. 2, 1999 -- In this instance, Brodeur's team was the one victimized by the puck ending up in its own net during a delayed penalty. The Devils pulled Brodeur after the referee's arm went up to signal a penalty on Ottawa defenseman Jason York, but Lyle Odelein's attempted pass back to the blue line split Scott Niedermayer and Dave Andreychuk and went the length of the ice into the empty net. Rhodes was the last Senator to touch the puck and received credit for the goal, giving Ottawa a 2-0 lead en route to a 6-0 win.
Jose Theodore, Montreal Canadiens, Jan. 2, 2001 -- Two years to the day that Rhodes was credited with his goal, Theodore took a page out of the book of Hextall, Osgood and Brodeur by gaining control of the puck behind his goal line and lifting a backhand shot that landed at center ice and skittered the rest of the way down into the vacated Islanders net, sealing a 3-0 victory for the Canadiens. Theodore stopped all 32 shots he faced, in the process becoming the first goalie to score more goals in a game than he allowed.
"It was awesome," Theodore said. "I clear the puck better with my backhand, and I just gave it a high arch. I was just trying to clear the zone. I was jumping all over the place. We got the win and the shutout, and I got a goal. It was a pretty good night for me."
Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks, March 10, 2002 -- Nabokov holds several distinctions thanks to the goal he scored in a 7-4 win over the Vancouver Canucks. He is the most recent goalie to actually shoot the puck down the ice and into the net for his goal, and he is also the only goalie in NHL history to ever be credited with a power-play goal, as the Canucks were shorthanded and had pulled their goalie to get back to even strength in an attempt to get back in the game. They dumped the puck into the Sharks' zone and Nabokov came out to play it between the circles, wristing a shot down the ice that landed at the Canucks' blue line before rolling the rest of the way into the cage.
In addition, Nabokov became the first goalie not born in the U.S. or Canada to score a goal.
Mika Noronen, Buffalo Sabres, Feb. 14, 2004 -- Capping off a comeback from a three-goal deficit against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre, the Sabres were hanging on to a 5-4 lead when Leafs forward Robert Reichel made an errant pass that went down the ice and into his own net. Noronen was the last member of the Sabres to touch the puck.
"It was kind of a fluke," said Noronen, the only Finnish goalie to be credited with a goal. "I really can't tell you what happened. I was just trying to stop the puck. Maybe the next one, I'll shoot into the net.
"I didn't know until our trainer gave me the puck after the game. He told me they likely might still change the goal to me, and that's what they did. Maybe I'll put (the puck) up on my wall."
Chris Mason, Nashville Predators, April, 15, 2006 -- With the Predators holding a 4-1 lead on the Coyotes midway through the third period and Phoenix about to go on the power play, Mason instead ended up as a goal scorer when Geoff Sanderson inadvertently passed the puck into the empty net.
At the end of the night, Mason expressed a sentiment similar to Ward's following Monday's game.
"It was a cheesy goal. Someone else should have received it. I don't even like counting one like that as a goal," Mason said. "I'd much rather shoot one and saucer it down and in. Maybe when I retire I can tell people that's how it happened."
I don't think today was my most solid game that I've had, some rebounds here and there. I know there's a lot of work to do, not every game is going to go as good as these last few. I've just got to make sure I keep working and keep trying to get better.
— Los Angeles Kings goaltender Martin Jones after stopping 38 of 39 shots in a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs