There are two realistic ways for an NHL goalie to score a goal. One is for the goalie to have been the last player on the team to touch the puck before the other team inadvertently puts it in the back of their own net. This is the far less exciting method, although it typically makes for better blooper real material. The second method is the one that kids who grew up strapping on the pads dream about: When the other team pulls the goalie late in a game as a last-ditch effort to even the score, swapping out their netminder for an additional skater. This gives the goalie a yawning cage to aim for as they muster up all their strength to huck that puck down the ice like they’ve never hucked a puck down ice before.
There’s something almost poetic about a player who spends their entire career trying to keep vulcanized rubber from hitting twine before finally getting the opportunity to put a puck in the back of the net. In the history of the National Hockey League, 12 different goalies have scored a total of 15 goals, and 7 of them — who we’ll focus on — did so by way of launching the puck nearly 200 feet and across the goal line. However, the first goalie ever credited with a goal was New York Islanders netminder Billy Smith, who was the last player on his team to touch the puck before Colorado Rockies defensemen Rob Ramage accidentally passed it into his net during a game in 1979.
Ron Hextall must have loved the feeling of lighting the lamp because he was not only the first to do it by shooting the puck, he did it twice. However, he still isn’t the all-time leader in goals scored among goaltenders. There’s an irony that one of the goalies known to have a degree of offensive acumen is best remembered for his fists and the ferocious way he was willing to protect both his teammates and his crease, which led to five career fights (per Hockey Fights).
Hextall was playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, and in a game on December 8, 1987, against the Boston Bruins, Hextall wrote his name in the hockey history books. Trailing late in the game, the Bruins pulled goalie Rejean Lemelin, per NHL. With the net empty, Hextall skied a clearing attempt over everyone’s head and out to the neutral zone. This prompted Bruins announcer Fred Cusick to offer the border-line clairvoyant remark, "Boy, he could score a goal sometimes; in a situation like this." Moments later, Hextall rifled another clearing attempt that traveled down the ice and crossed the goal line just inside the right goal post. He was mobbed by his teammates and became the first goalie to score by shooting the puck himself. As if that weren’t enough, about a year and a half later, Hextall scored again, this time becoming the first goalie to score in a playoff game, which he did in a 1989 post-season tilt against the Washington Capitals.
According to Gaimday, it was nearly seven years before another goalie put himself in the scoring column. Chris Osgood is best known for backstopping the powerhouse Detroit Redwings of the 1990s to multiple Stanley Cup victories. However, he is also a member of the exclusive club of netminders who have scored goals. According to HockeyDB, Osgood played 744 career NHL games, but one of the most memorable happened on March 6, 1996.
Osgood’s Red Wings were in Hartford, Connecticut, to take on the Whalers. According to NHL, Hartford waved goalie Sean Burke to the bench and sent out the extra attacker. This left a big, juicy 6-foot by 4-foot target for Chris Osgood to shoot at. Osgood dropped to a knee to stop a hard shot on the net with the paddle of his stick, then quickly hopped up just outside the left faceoff circle and fired a dart that landed just shy of the far blueline and bounced its way into the net. Osgood’s goal was enough to seal a 4-2 Red Wings victory over the Whalers.
Even if you had no clue which goalies in NHL history scored but needed to guess, Martin Brodeur would likely be somewhere between picks No.1 to No. 4. The netminder who played the vast majority of his career for the New Jersey Devils — earning one of the greatest nicknames ever, "Satan’s Wallpaper," via Bleacher Report — possessed a skill important for any goalie that wants to score: great puck handling ability. Brodeur was one of the best in this respect and is arguably responsible for the league introducing a rule to prevent goalies from playing the puck behind the neck outside of a designated area (via The New York Times).
Brodeur is the all-time leader in goals among goaltenders, with a whopping three to his name. His first goal came on April 17, 1997, against the Montreal Canadiens. Brodeur grew up in Montreal and was hosting his hometown team in northern New Jersey for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. With Canadiens goalie Jocelyn Thibault summoned to the bench late in the game, Brodeur fired a strike into the back of the net that helped the Devils to a 5-2 victory.
His other goals came via the less exciting "last to touch the puck" method against the Philadelphia Flyers in February 2000, but it marked the only time in NHL history that a goalie was credited with a game-winning goal. Thirteen years later, Brodeur notched his third and final career goal in a similar fashion.
Jose Theodore had one of the most impressive goalie goals in NHL history in that it capped off a stellar netminding performance. On January 2, 2001, Theodore — a native of Laval, Quebec — and the Montreal Canadiens were on Long Island for a meeting with the New York Islanders. According to NHL, Theodore kept the crowd at Nassau Coliseum in their seats for 60 minutes, stopping all 32 shots that came his way.
With just 9 seconds remaining in regulation and with the game locked up 2-0 in the Canadiens’ favor, the puck found its way behind Theodore’s net. He skated to it and heaved a high-arching backhander nearly the full 200 feet into the Islanders net, which had been vacated by John Vanbiesbrouck. It was the only goal of Theodore’s lengthy 648-game NHL career, which included additional stints with the Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild, and Florida Panthers (via HockeyDB).
Evgeni Nabokov was known for backstopping an era of the San Jose Sharks that wasn’t short on talent but just couldn’t get over the hump to claim post-season success. However, on his own, Nabokov put his name in the history books by being the first goalie to ever score a power-play goal (via NHL).
On March 10, 2022, the San Jose Sharks traveled up the Pacific Coast to Vancouver, British Columbia, for a regular-season match-up with the Vancouver Canucks. Late in the game, with the Sharks leading 6-4, Canucks forward Jarkko Ruutu was handed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for elbowing, per NHL. This gave the Sharks a lengthy power play, and toward the end of regulation, the Canucks pulled the goalie and sent out an extra attacker to even up the number of skaters. The Canucks dumped the puck into the Sharks’ zone but put it right on the net. Nabokov gloved the puck, quickly dropped it on the ice, and fired a shot the length of the rink. It was the only goal of his career and sealed a 7-4 Sharks victory.
After Evgeni Nabokov’s goal, it was nearly 11 years before another goalie scored a goal by shooting the puck on his own. Mike Smith is a goalie who is known for not passing up an opportunity to show off his puckhandling skills, per the Edmonton Sun. Smith spent quite a few seasons in the desert manning the crease for the Phoenix Coyotes, and that’s who he was playing in 2013 when he scored a goal against the Detroit Red Wings.
Just a few days into the 2013-2014 season, Smith’s Coyotes were hosting the Red Wings and beating them 4-2 late in the third period. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock called his goaltender Jimmy Howard to the bench with just over 30 seconds remaining in regulation, a last gasp effort to put his team back in the game. The Red Wings made several failed attempts to set up in the Coyotes’ end of the ice, and on the last attempt, forward Mikael Samuelsson shot a puck that appeared to be going wide of the net. However, Smith snapped it up with his glove and quickly put it in position to take a stab at the empty net. Doing this quickly was the key because by the time Smith’s shot made it down the ice and into the net, there was only a tenth of a second remaining on the game clock, per NHL.
According to HockeyDB, Pekka Rinne played his entire 683-game NHL career with the Nashville Predators. He backstopped the team on multiple playoff runs and even an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017 before his retirement at the end of the 2020-2021 NHL season (via Hockey Reference). One of the most memorable moments of his lengthy and esteemed career came relatively late in his penultimate season.
Rinne and the Predators were on the road in Chicago, where they had a January 9, 2020, matchup with the Blackhawks. The game was played just a few days after the team had fired head coach Peter Laviolette and hired his replacement John Hynes (via NHL). Hynes was in for a memorable first win with the Predators. With just about a minute to go in regulation, the Predators were maintaining a 3-2 lead. The Blackhawks sent out the extra attacker, and with 37 seconds remaining, the Predator’s Nick Bonino punched in an empty-net goal late in the game. After the ensuing faceoff, the Blackhawks called netminder Corey Crawford back to the bench, and just 15 seconds after Bonino’s goal, Rinne launched a shot from behind his own net, down the ice, and into the Blackhawks net. It made him the most recent goalie to score at the NHL level, and it was the only time in his career that his name was written in the goal column.