The NHL playoffs are like nothing else in sports.
The beards get longer, the hits get harder, and the intensity ratchets past anything the regular season serves up. Hockey players will crawl, scratch, and fight—literally, in most cases—for a chance to have their names etched onto the Stanley Cup.
The playoffs are a two-month odyssey that tests the limits of player fitness, stamina, speed, strength, and agility. Without the proper preparation through the season, it’s almost impossible for players to keep up their level of skill in the postseason.
And while there have been some amazing individual performances in playoff history, only the best of the best win championships.
Here, we rank the 10 best playoff goals of all time:
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings, 2008
Zetterberg goes behind his back—blindly—for this score against the Colorado Avalanche, taking a pass from Pavel Datsyuk and putting the puck in on a second effort. Even more impressive: Zetterberg gets knocked down after taking the shot, but puts the goal in anyway with a backhand as he falls down:
Doug Gilmour, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1993
Gilmour pulls off one of the most creative goals in playoff history to help seal a game against the St. Louis Blues in double overtime. After taking the puck behind the net, Gilmour fakes one way to get the goalie down and quickly spins back to the other side of the net—which is completely wide open after the fake-out—and fires home the winner:
Jonathan Cheechoo, San Jose Sharks, 2004
Cheechoo goes in between his legs to pull off this amazing goal against the Colorado Avalanche. The goalie has no idea the shot is coming after Cheechoo lets the puck slide through his legs, bringing his stick down for the incredible redirection:
Robert Lang, Detroit Red Wings, 2004
Lang is somehow able to control the puck in the offensive zone despite being taken down to the ice by a Nashville Predators defender. As Lang goes down, he still has the coordination to deke the goalie with some fancy stick work, putting the puck in the net to give Detroit a commanding 3-1 lead in the game:
Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1992
Lemieux goes coast-to-coast to score this goal against the then-Minnesota North Stars, embarrassing the last line of defense with an unreal stick move. Lemieux puts the puck from his left side under the defender's stick, then picks it up on the right side, perfectly splitting the defense and finding himself with a clear path to the net.
Only a few hockey players in the world—if any—could make a nifty move like this and then still have enough control to actually get a shot off, let alone score:
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins, 1970
Orr’s Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime against the St. Louis Blues gives the Bruins their first NHL championship in thirty years—and, through the lens of photographer Ray Lussier, spawns one of the greatest sports photos of all time. Orr takes a pass from behind the net after crossing in front of the goalie and quickly deflects the shot in for the goal.
Just as Orr starts celebrating the goal, a Blues player trips him, sending Orr into the air fully horizontal, his stick still raised in pure elation after winning the Cup. It remains one of the most iconic moments in sports.
Brett Hull, Dallas Stars, 1999
Hull's score against the Buffalo Sabres is one of the most controversial goals in playoff history. Hull clinched the Stanley Cup for Dallas with his overtime score, but many Buffalo fans are still fuming about this one—Hull’s foot was in the crease when he put the puck in the net past goalie Dominik Hasek. The officials in the game called it a good goal, and the rest is history.
Stephane Matteau, New York Rangers, 1994
Matteau’s goal to win Game 7 in double overtime against the New Jersey Devils spawned one of the most memorable broadcast calls in sports history. Matteau takes the puck behind the net, wraps around Devils goalie Martin Brodeur’s left side and quickly puts the shot in. The Rangers go crazy on the ice, while radio announcer Howie Rose, left to make the call, simply screams: "MATTEAU, MATTEAU, MATTEAU!” The goal catapulted the Rangers into the Stanley Cup finals and propelled the team to their first championship in half a century.
Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings, 1996
Yzerman took matters into his own hands to seal Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals, sniping a shot from the blue line to defeat the the St. Louis Blues. Yzerman’s shot comes just over a minute into overtime, completely stunning the Blues and putting the Red Wings into the conference finals.
Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers, 1988
He's called “The Great One” for a reason. In overtime of Game 2 of the Division Finals, Edmonton was a man down on the power play against the Calgary Flames. Somehow, Gretzky finds some open ice as he races past the last line of defense. He ratchets up a laser of a shot from the left side of the face-off circle, burying the OT winner into the top shelf of the net.