Five best marathon overtime goaltending performances

Goaltenders Oskar Ostlund and Samuel Ward combined for 186 saves in an eight-overtime epic in Norway’s top league. There’s no modern-day NHL equivalent, but these are the five best marathon OT performances by big league keepers.

As far as we know, the Norwegian league doesn’t have its own versions of the NHL’s beloved “History Will Be Made” commercials, but they certainly have the fodder for a spot or two after an epic first-round matchup between Storhamar and Sparta Warriors.

The two teams entered into Game 5 of the series deadlocked at two wins apiece, and no one hitting the ice to start Sunday’s game could have known what was in store. Through 40 minutes, Storhamar had a 1-0 edge on the visiting side, but Sparta scored to draw even early in the third frame. The goal, which came at the 42:20 mark of the contest, would be the last goal scored by either team for nearly three hours of playing time. 

After regulation, the two sides battled through seven scoreless overtimes, and it wasn’t until Joakim Jensen blasted home a goal with 2:46 remaining in the eighth extra frame that the game finally had its conclusion. All told, the game lasted more than 217 minutes and the final whistle sounded more than eight and a half hours after the game began.

Jensen will rightfully go down as the hero of the contest, but not enough can be said about the play of the game’s two netminders. In the Storhamar net, 25-year-old Oskar Ostlund stopped an incredible 92 of 93 shots that were sent his way, posting a ridiculous .989 save percentage in the outing. Meanwhile, Sparta’s 22-year-old goaltender Samuel Ward stopped 94 of 96 shots, finishing with a .979 SP. Ward’s night is even more impressive when you consider he faced and stopped a penalty shot in the seventh overtime, as well.

As far as top-league hockey goes, the performances are undoubtedly two of the best ever, and certainly all the more impressive given the pressure both goaltenders would have been facing as the contest continued into the fifth, sixth, seventh and eventually eighth extra frame. Combined, the two teams threw 189 shots on goal yet only three pucks were able to beat the goaltenders on the evening.

But how do the single-game performances stack up next to the greatest in modern NHL history? Here are the five best post-season goaltending performances of the past 25 years:

5. Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche — June 10, 1996

The Avalanche may have swept the Florida Panthers en route to winning the 1996 Stanley Cup, but it was far from a cakewalk. Aside from an 8-1 drubbing in the second game of the best-of-seven series, Colorado and Florida played a two-goal game and two one-goal contests, and Game 4 was memorable for both squads.

In what would end up being the series-deciding game, the contest went to a third overtime frame before their was a deciding goal, and over the course of the six periods of play, the Panthers threw everything at Roy. He was tested early and often, stopping a ridiculous 63 shots in the game. He refused to let anything get by him, however, and held the fort until Uwe Krupp scored roughly five minutes into the third overtime.

Roy’s 63 saves are the second-most stops made in a playoff shutout over the past 25 years. The league record is unbeatable, though. It belongs to Normie Smith, who stopped 92 shots in the Detroit Red Wings’ 1-0 overtime victory over the Montreal Maroons during the 1936 post-season.

4. Ron Tugnutt, Pittsburgh Penguins — May 4, 2000

The longest game in NHL history spanned nine periods and didn’t end until Mud Bruneteau scored to lift the Red Wings past the Maroons in the same outing where Smith stopped 92 shots. The only other game to stretch to six overtimes also game during the 1930s. In the decades since, though, only one other game has seen more than 90 minutes of overtime, and that’s the classic between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

For Tugnutt, the game is no doubt memorable, but the best word to describe the game is probably “heartbreaking.” As in, it must have been heartbreaking to surrender the game-winning goal to Keith Primeau with eight minutes left in the fifth — yes, fifth — overtime of the second-round series between the Pennsylvanian rivals. At least it was a beautiful goal.

Tugnutt’s performance is one of the very best regardless of the loss. He allowed two goals against over 150-plus minutes of play, and while Brian Boucher stopped 57 of 58 shots, Tugnutt turned aside 70 of the 72 shots that were sent his way. No goaltender in the past two and a half decades has a better save percentage in a game they’ve allowed two goals against.

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3. Ed Belfour, Toronto Maple Leafs — April 16, 2003

Philadelphia has a penchant for coming out on the winning end of some lengthy overtime battles over the past 25 years, but they came awfully close to having one of their best performances stolen from them by Belfour. The Hall of Fame netminder was between the pipes for the first-round series between Philadelphia and Toronto, and Game 4 was inching closer to a fourth overtime thanks to Belfour.

Through nearly six periods of play, the Flyers had absolutely peppered Belfour. He had stopped 72 of the first 74 shots he faced while the Maple Leafs managed to only blast 38 shots of their own on the Flyers’ Roman Cechmanek. Unfortunately for Belfour and the Maple Leafs, it was shot No. 75 by Philadelphia that wound up standing as the game-winning goal. Mark Recchi’s shot narrowly eluded Beflour to even the series at two games apiece.

Belfour’s 72-save performance is one of the best the league has seen in the modern era, and failing to cash it on it came back to haunt the Maple Leafs as they were ousted from the playoffs in seven games. Belfour’s 72 saves were the most a goaltender had made in the post-2000s NHL, a mark that he held by himself for nearly four years.

2. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks — April 11, 2007

Belfour’s 72-save performance was tops among all modern goaltenders until the Canucks and Dallas Stars played what was arguably one of the most thrilling first games of any first-round post-season series ever. The back-and-forth affair saw the two teams trade goals early until the Canucks opened up a 4-2 lead, but they blew that in the third period. From there, the two teams would engage in a four-overtime classic.

Over the course of the game, it was clear Dallas had the edge in play and the shot totals showed as much. While Stars goaltender Marty Turco was busy, finishing with 51 saves on 56 shots, he wasn’t nearly as busy as Luongo. Dallas directed pucks on net early and often, and by the time Henrik Sedin scored the quadruple-overtime winner, Luongo had turned aside 72 of the 76 shots he had faced.

As noted, Luongo’s 72 saves put him into a tie with Belfour for the most in a single outing over the past 25 seasons, and Luongo has the most of any goaltender in a playoff win over that span. That doesn’t give him the single-best goaltending performance of the past 25 years, however.

1. Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres — April 27, 1994

When he landed in Buffalo in August 1992, Hasek wasn’t the ‘Dominator’ quite yet. In fact, it wasn’t even in his first season that he managed to break out as a star. But in his second year as a Sabre, everything started to click for Hasek. He had turned in a Jennings Trophy-winning performance in the Sabres crease and would go on to win his first of six Vezina Trophies in 1993-94, but he saved his best single game of the season for the playoffs.

The first-round series between the Sabres and New Jersey Devils was set to be a goaltending duel with Hasek facing off with Martin Brodeur, but no one would have expected the Game 6 classic Hasek would turn in. He and Brodeur battled save-for-save, posting duelling shutouts through the first six periods of the game. It wasn’t until the seventh overtime that the scoreless tie was finally broken by Dave Hannan, leading to a legendary call by play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret.

But Hannan’s goal was only possible because of the play of Hasek. Over the course of the game, he faced 70 shots and stopped each and every one. Brodeur’s game was stellar, too, but he finished the game with 49 saves on 50 shots.

Smith’s record from 1936 will never be broken and it’s hard to imagine we’ll see Hasek’s modern-era record of a 70-save post-season shutout fall any time soon.

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