best goals of the year 2023

With all the skill in the NHL today, the beauty of the goals being scored has risen considerably.

Each night, there seems to be a take-your-breath-away goal scored.

But the thing about goals is that sometimes the ugliest, most workmanlike goals are just as important, if not more so, than the highlight-reel goals.

To be a truly memorable goal, the skill and the setting and the stakes all have to conspire.

With that in mind, here are some of the favorite goals scored during 2023, in chronological order, according to 10 members of the staff.

Ullmark's goalie goal

During the 2022-23 season, Linus Ullmark put up unbelievable numbers on the way to winning the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL. But who would have thought his top moment would come against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 25, when Ullmark saw his chance to live out a childhood dream? With the Vancouver goalie pulled, Ullmark knocked down a dumped-in puck before launching it the other way, past a group of Canucks and into the wide-open net to seal the 3-1 win. The Boston Bruins bench erupted, Ullmark skated down it for fist bumps and fellow goalie Jeremy Swayman nearly strained a muscle in the post-game hug. Ullmark became the 13th goalie to score and the first since Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators on Jan. 9, 2020. The most important goal of the year? Nah. But the most fun? Definitely. -- Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

BOS@VAN: Ullmark nets his first career goal

McDavid's short-handed playoff goal

Connor McDavid had his share of highlight-reel goals in the past calendar year, but one of the most memorable was scored May 6 in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas won the opening game of the best-of-7 series at home and was trailing 2-0 in Game 2, but were on the power play midway through the second period with a chance to get back in the game. However, McDavid stripped Shea Theodore of the puck at the blue line, raced down the ice fighting off the defenseman all the way, cut to the net and shoveled the puck past goalie Laurent Brossoit. The goal gave the Oilers a 3-0 lead and they would go on to win the game 5-1, tying the series 1-1. -- Derek Van Diest, staff writer

EDM@VGK, Gm2: McDavid increases lead with SHG in 1st

Matthew Tkachuk says, 'let's go home!'

Let's be honest, the Florida Panthers forward could have a couple of entries in this roundtable based on how he performed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But of the 11 goals he scored, I'll always remember his overtime winner when the Panthers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final on May 20. Yep, after scoring the winner in the fourth overtime in Game 1, Tkachuk got another one. It was a nice goal, when he took a pass from Sam Reinhart and beat Hurricanes goaltender Antti Raanta on his glove side. But the celebration made it: as soon as he scored, Tkachuk pointed toward the door to exit the ice and said, "Let's go home!" to the Panthers and started running (as well as a player can in skates) down the corridor to the locker room. A goal to win a playoff game? Excellent. A memorable celebration following said goal? Doubly excellent. -- Tracey Myers, staff writer

Stone's assist gets an assist

Brett Howden may have gotten the goal and Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson the assists, but this goal for the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 5 wouldn't have happened without equipment manager J.W. Aiken. With Vegas already having won Game 1 of the Final and holding a 3-0 lead in Game 2, Howden, Stone, Stephenson and Aiken combined for perhaps the most memorable goal of the Final. With 13 minutes left in the second period, Stone broke his stick while in the defensive end and immediately went to the bench for a replacement. Without a moment's hesitation, Aiken handed him a new piece of lumber, enabling him to join the rush with Howden and Stephenson. After taking the puck from Stephenson, Stone fed Howden, who deked around goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Golden Knights a 4-0 lead in the game for an eventual 7-2 win and 2-0 series lead. Stone would go on to score a hat trick in the deciding Game 5, but the play with Stone, Aiken, Stephenson and Howden summed up how in sync the Golden Knights were throughout the playoffs. -- Bill Price, Editor in Chief

FLA@VGK, Gm2: Howden increases Golden Knights' lead in 2nd

Cooley treats Aussie fans with spin-o-rama

It was the greatest goal ever scored in the Southern Hemisphere and would've been a beauty anywhere. The NHL traveled below the equator for the first time when the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings played in Australia on Sept. 23-24 in the 2024 NHL Global Series -- Melbourne. In the first of the two preseason games at Rod Laver Arena, Coyotes forward Logan Cooley carried the puck up the right wing into the Los Angeles zone, did a 360-degree spin to avoid a defender in the right circle and fired the puck into the net as he fell in what turned out to be the game-winning goal in a 5-3 win by the Coyotes. Crikey! -- Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

Jack Hughes calls bank

Jack Hughes has done it before, calculating the exact moment to shoot the puck off the back side or mask of the opposing goalie. And the New Jersey Devils center wasted little time this season against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 12. After skating down left wing and being forced to the outside by defenseman Moritz Seider, Hughes skated below the goal line and, before curling around the net, banked a wrist shot off the helmet of Ville Husso at 13:39 of the second period in an eventual 4-3 Devils win. "That was just where I wanted to put it," Hughes said. "I think it went right where I wanted it to go." -- Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

DET@NJD: Hughes nets PPG from below goal line

It's a swing and a drive…

Tim Stützle showed off his baseball skills to cap the Ottawa Senators thrilling 5-4 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings at Avicii Arena in Stockholm as part of the 2023 NHL Global Series Sweden presented by Fastenal on Nov. 16. Stutzle, the Senators forward, had his elbow up, weight back and eyes focused on the puck as Drake Batherson's pass ricocheted up into the air off Red Wings defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere's stick. Stutzle shifted his weight perfectly, and with a good ol' lefty cut, a la Ted Wiliams or Tony Gwynn, he made solid contact on the airborne puck, sending an up-the-middle line drive over goalie James Reimer's left shoulder and into the net with two seconds remaining in overtime. The only bad part about it: Stutzle is not a baseball fan. In fact, he said he hates baseball and finds it boring. Well, there was nothing boring about his goal. He got all of it. -- Dan Rosen, senior writer

Watch Stützle's home-run swing in slow motion

Benson makes an impression

A player's first NHL goal always is special, but few probably have been as saucy or worthy of the highlight reel as Buffalo Sabres forward Zach Benson's against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 22 at Capital One Arena. The 18-year-old took a pass and skated in close toward the Capitals net and goalie Darcy Kuemper. But instead of taking a backhand shot, Benson pulled the puck and his stick between his legs and fired a hard forehand shot top shelf over a sprawled Kuemper that gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead at 16:04 of the first period. Washington won 4-3 in overtime but it was a night Benson never will forget. -- William Douglas, staff writer

Jarry does it again

Let's bookend this list with goalie goals. Tristan Jarry of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored the final goal in a 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 30, becoming the first Penguins goalie to score and the ninth different goalie to shoot the puck into the net for a goal. Jarry made a save, lifted the puck with his stick and scored from his crease into an empty net at 18:52 of the third period. "It was kind of a perfect scenario," Jarry said. "They dumped it right on net and I didn't even have to stop it. I just shot it right on the fly and it ended up going in." While Jarry became the first Penguins goalie to score, it was his second goalie goal. He also scored in the American Hockey League five years ago. -- Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

PIT@TBL: Jarry scores goal to make Penguins history

'Michigan' men

Connor Bedard and Trevor Zegras sent the NHL into the Christmas break with quite a show as each scored a Michigan-style lacrosse goal on the final day before the season paused for the holiday. Bedard the dazzling Chicago Blackhawks rookie, scooped the puck up to his left and scored over the left shoulder of St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington in the first period of the Blackhawks' 7-5 loss. The move even impressed NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, who was on-hand for the game. "I couldn’t do what he did tonight," Gretzky said on the Bally Sports Midwest broadcast. "That just wasn’t in my repertoire. ... My daughter Emma is with me and she goes, 'Dad, did you ever do that?' I said, 'No, I could never do that.'" Zegras matched Bedard's feat a bit later, scoring his third NHL lacrosse-style goal for the Anaheim Ducks in a 3-2 loss to the Seattle Kraken. It made for the return for Zegras, who had missed 20 games because of a lower-body injury. -- Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor

Check out 'Michigan' goals from Bedard and Zegras

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