Scoring goals at exactly the right time is something of a gift and skill that numerous NHL players have perfected during their careers. These are players who know how to find the back of the net on a consistent basis when the game is on the line. This list features the 12 best clutch goalscorers in the history of the NHL. We’ve used several factors to come up with the best clutch scorers in history and taken into account the number of game-winning goals in both the regular season and playoffs as well as overtime markers and and game-tying goals.
In addition, we’ve taken into account total goals scored in their careers and games played. When everything was considered, Some excellent regular-season, game-winning scorers just missed the final cut including Gordie Howe, Phil Esposito, Teemu Selanne and Jarome Iginla. And on the other side of that coin, some players such as Chris Drury were fantastic clutch scorers in the playoffs, but couldn’t replicate the feat in the regular season. If the game’s tied with just minutes to go, these are the 12 players we’d be sending over the boards to try and settle it.
12. Brendan Shanahan
Former winger Brendan Shanahan was known for his rough and tumble style of play as he’s still the only player to score more than 600 goals and serve over 2,000 minutes in penalties. He was an elite scorer in all situations and finished his career with 656 goals. A total of 109 of them were game winners to currently rank sixth on the all-time list in that category and he was in the top-10 during seven of his seasons. He’s also tied for 12th place when it comes to regular-season overtime markers. He helped himself win a trio of Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings from 1996 to 2002 by netting another 12 game winners during the postseason with a pair of them coming in overtime. Shanahan also finished his career with 23 shorthanded goals and scored 15 game-tying goals.
11. Mats Sundin
Mats Sundin was never a 50-goal shooter, but was able to score on a consistent basis. He totaled 564 goals during his career with 96 of them being game winners to rank 12th on the all-time list. Fifteen of those came in overtime which means just three players have scored more in the extra session. He enjoyed seven seasons in the top-10 for game-winning goals, led the league with 10 in 2003/04 and scored an impressive 31 shorthanded markers. Sundin never won a Stanley Cup, but scored eight game winners in the playoffs including two in overtime. One of his most famous postseason goals came in 2001/02 when he scored with just seconds to go in the third period to tie Carolina in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals. Sundin’s 500th career goal was just as memorable as it was his third goal of the game and came in overtime against Calgary in 2006.
10. Patrick Marleau
Winger Patrick Marleau of the Toronto Maple Leafs is one of just two players on this list who are still playing in the NHL and is climbing the ladder when it comes to all-time game-winning goals. The 38-year-old currently sits in seventh place all-time with 103 game winners with 10 of them being scored in overtime. Marleau has placed in the league’s top-10 game-winning goals in five of his seasons and he’s chipped in with 17 shorthanded markers. The Stanley Cup has managed to elude him so far, but Marleau has scored his fair share of clutch goals in the postseason with another 16 game winners, including four in overtime. Just eight players have managed to score more game winners in the playoffs than Marleau.
9. Claude Lemieux
Claude Lemieux was called a lot of things during his career such as rat, weasel, dirty and a cheap shot artist so it might surprise you we’re calling him a clutch goalscorer. The former winger often came through with the game on the line. He scored 80 playoff goals in his career with 19 of them being game winners and three of them coming in overtime. This means Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull are the only two players to score more postseason game winners and 23.8 per cent of Lemieux’s playoff goals were clinchers. Also, 15 per cent of his regular-season goals were game winners as he netted 57 of them in 379 total goals. He was ranked in the top-10 for game winners on three occasions and Lemieux was the first rookie to score an overtime goal in game seven of a playoff series.
8. Sergei Federov
Former Russian center Sergei Federov is currently tied for 14th place for regular-season game winners as 93 of his 483 career goals earned a pair of points for his team. Federov also ranks fourth all-time in regular-season overtime goals with 15 of them and managed to finish his career with 36 shorthanded markers. He helped Detroit win three Stanley Cups during his time in the Motor City and pulled his weight by chipping in with another 12 game winners in the playoffs. Federov enjoyed five seasons in the top-10 for regular-season game-winning goals. Twenty-three per cent of his 52 playoff goals were game winners while 19.3 per cent of his regular-season goals won the game for his team. This was definitely a guy who came through in the clutch time after time.
7. Alexander Ovechkin
The other active NHL’er on this list is the great Russian sniper Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. His 100 game winners rank him ninth all-time and he’s steadily gaining ground on those above him. When it comes to regular-season overtime winners, The 32-year-old is already the best ever with 22 of them. Like Patrick Marleau, Ovechkin hasn’t been able to hoist the Stanley Cup as of yet, but he’s chipped in with half a dozen game winners in the playoffs. The six-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner has placed in the top-10 for game-winning goals a total of six times in his career and led the league in the clutch-scoring category three times. These were in 2007/08, 2010/11 and 2014/15 when 11 of his goals won games for the Capitals.
6. Joe Sakic
Joe ‘Sudden Death’ Sakic leads the way when it comes to overtime goals in the playoffs with an all-time high of eight. He’s also tied with Claude Lemieux for the most game winners in playoff history at 19, with Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull being the only players above them. Of his 84 playoff goals, 22.3 per cent of them were game winners and 42 per cent of those came in overtime so it’s no wonder he won a pair of Stanley Cups with Colorado. Sakic also added 86 game winners and seven overtime goals in regular-season play along with 13 game-tying goals and 32 shorthanded markers. He led the league in game winners in 2000/01 with 12 of them and was top-10 in the category in five seasons.
5. Maurice Richard
Let’s go back a few decades to the pre-overtime regular-season era in the NHL. One of the league’s clutch and top scorers back then was the fiery Rocket Richard of the Montreal Canadiens. Richard still ranks fifth all-time in game-winning goals in the playoffs with 18 and six of them being scored in overtime. His quickest overtime winner came after just 71 seconds and his longest came in the fourth overtime period after 61 minutes. His clutch playoff heroics helped the Montreal Canadiens win eight Stanley Cups during his days at the old Forum. This means 22 per cent of the Rocket’s 82 playoff tallies were game winners. When it came to the regular season, Richard also had a knack for scoring big goals as 84 of his 544 career markers clinched the game for the Habs.
4. Wayne Gretzky
You probably knew the NHL’s all-time leading scorer would have to be on this list somewhere and here he is. Wayne Gretzky drilled in 91 game-winning goals during regular-season play, scored another dozen that tied the game and ranks first overall with 73 shorthanded markers, leading the league six times while his team was a man short. Gretzky was in the top-10 for game-winning goals on four occasions and led the league with 12 of them in 1981/82. It was in the playoffs where the Great One really shone though as he is tied with Brett Hull for first-place overall with 24 game winners and four of them coming in overtime. He also added another dozen shorthanded goals in the postseason to help him hoist the Stanley Cup four times during his career.
3. Jaromir Jagr
When it comes to game-winning goals, the league’s all-time leader is 46-year-old Jaromir Jagr, whose NHL career is in limbo right now. Jagr has won the game for his teams 135 times in regular-season play, which is 14 more than runner-up Gordie Howe. He’s also right up there when it comes to overtime goals as he’s currently second all-time with 19 of them under his belt. The most famous mullet in NHL history didn’t dry up when the playoffs rolled around either as just eight players have scored more than his 16 postseason winners. In addition, the two-time Stanley Cup winner is tied for fourth all-time with four overtime tallies in the playoffs. Along with 135 game winners, Jagr netted the game’s first goal a record 135 times too.
2. Mike Bossy
Right winger Mike Bossy was one of the purest scorers the NHL has ever seen and it’s a shame he retired early due to a back injury. He scored 573 times in 752 career games with 80 of those goals being game winners for the New York Islanders and four of them coming in overtime. Bossy led the NHL in game-winning goals in both 1980/81 and 1985/86 when he racked up 10 and nine of them respectively. This wasn’t surprising since he finished in the top-10 for game winners in eight of his seasons. He also helped get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup four times with the Islanders by adding 17 game winners and three overtime markers in the playoffs. This ranks Bossy in a sixth-place tie for all-time postseason winners. Bossy scored the series-winning goal in the 1981/82 and 1982/83 Stanley Cup Finals to become the only NHL player ever to score back to back Cup-winning goals.
1. Brett Hull
The most famous and controversial goal of Brett Hull’s career won the Dallas Stars the Stanley Cup in 1998/99. Hull scored in triple overtime against Buffalo Sabres’ hall of fame netminder Dominik Hasek to win the silverware in six games. It was controversial since Hull’s skate was in the crease at the time the NHL was disallowing goals if anybody had a foot in the crease. The goal stood though and it was just one of Hull’s three overtime and 24 game-winning goals in the playoffs, which is the all-time NHL record he shares with Wayne Gretzky. The Golden Jet’s son won a pair of Stanley Cups and wasn’t too shabby in the regular season either as he netted 110 game winners to tie Teemu Selanne for fourth place all-time. In addition, just 11 players have scored more than Hull’s 12 overtime goals in regular-season play and he also added 12-game-tying markers.