The only thing worse than an own goal might be one that proves costly at the most important time of the year. Take a look back at five of the most infamous playoff own goals in league history.
Despite winning a promotion into the top division of the World Championship, Italy wasn’t exactly a top team heading into the tournament. Truthfully, the thought was that in a division that included clubs with years of top-flight experience, such as the Americans, Russians, Swedes and Slovaks, Italy would have accomplished quite a bit if they were able to simply avoid relegation.
Sadly, seven games and seven losses later, the Italians skated off the ice for the final time at the World Championship having suffered relegation once again. The tournament was tough for the Italians. They scored just six goals, pushed only one game into extra time and finished with a tournament-worst minus-26 goal differential. And, to top it all off, the final goal of the tournament that came off of an Italian player’s stick was one that went into the Italian net.
In Italy’s tournament finale on Monday, they managed to keep things close with Denmark up until the final minutes. Down 1-0 and with a chance to push for a late tying goal, the Italians pulled netminder Andreas Bernard. However, as Italy worked the puck around in their own zone before making a rush up ice, a pass from Thomas Larkin handcuffed Alexander Egger, who tripped over his own feet and fell to the ice as the puck trickled into the net.
It’s hard not to feel for Egger, but the “bonus,” if you can call it that, is that at least his own goal came in a game that realistically was of little importance. Italy would have been relegated even if they won the game in overtime. Others who have put pucks in their own net in the past haven’t been so lucky.
So, with Egger’s error fresh in our minds and the fact we’re in the midst of the post-season, here are five playoff own goals that have proven costly:
5. Marc-Edouard Vlasic knocks home an early rebound — April 14, 2012
As a stay-at-home defenseman and one of the most sound defenders in the league, Vlasic doesn’t often find the back of the net. In his entire post-season career, Vlasic has scored three playoff goals and those three tallies have all come within the past four years. But before he had even notched a goal of his own, he had managed to light the lamp all the way back in the Sharks’ first-round series against the Blues in 2011-12.
In Game 2, after San Jose stole Game 1 on the road, St. Louis was looking to draw even in the series, and they started the scoring early. Or, rather, Vlasic started the scoring for them. Just 1:30 into the first period, Vladimir Sobotka’s shot got past Antti Niemi and Vlasic tapped it into the Sharks’ net. It’s clear Vlasic was simply trying to clear the puck, but he mistimed the swing of his stick and misfired, making for a clumsy own goal.
Making matters worse, Vlasic’s own goal stood as the game-winner and the Sharks went on to drop four-straight, exiting the playoffs in five games.
4. Marc Bergevin’s tosses one past Roman Turek — April 15, 2000
From our first entry, we go back in time almost exactly 12 years to the same building with the same teams to find No. 4 on the list. This one, though, is almost incredible in how odd it is.
In Game 2 of the first-round series, the Blues had managed to get a 1-0 lead midway through the first frame when the Sharks started to push back during a high-sticking double minor that had been assessed to St. Louis’ Al MacInnis. As San Jose skated into the zone, Sharks defenseman Gary Suter attempted to float a cross-ice saucer pass over to Mike Ricci, but the pass was intercepted perfectly — and we’re talking NFL-style — by Blues defender and current Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin. But Bergevin’s gaffe came after the catch.
Trying to throw the puck to safety, Bergevin instead threw it in behind St. Louis goaltender Turek — clean behind him. Turek had no idea. The goal, credited to Suter, tied the game, as the Sharks went on to win Game 2 and later took the series in seven games.
3. Dan Boyle is the Avalanche’s overtime hero — April 18, 2010
Sharks defensemen appear two times on this list not because we’re picking on their defenders, but because the own goals have been so impactful that it’s hard to leave them off. And Vlasic’s own goal that sparked the Blues’ Game 2 victory in 2012 doesn’t really hold a candle to the one sniped home by Boyle almost exactly two years earlier.
During Game 3 of the first round series between San Jose and Colorado, Craig Anderson had stood on his head to send the game to overtime, but it seemed only a matter of time before the Sharks broke through. However, 51 second into the extra frame, it was the Avalanche who notched the overtime winner on a reverse play by Boyle to partner Douglas Murray went awry.
As pressure came from Ryan O’Reilly, Boyle tried to send the puck back to Murray but instead sent it on goal. The puck slipped between Evgeni Nabokov’s pad and the post, handing the Avalanche the win and Anderson a 51-save shutout.
Thankfully for the Sharks, the goal wouldn’t prove costly in the season-ending sense. San Jose managed to oust Colorado in six games.
2. Steve Smith’s own goal ends the series — April 30, 1986
When you’re talking own goals in hockey history, especially those in the post-season, the first name that comes to mind is Steve Smith. The reasons for that are plenty.
First, there’s the goal, which came when Smith tried to make an outlet pass to start a rush up ice. Instead of completing the pass, though, Smith accidentally banked the puck off of Grant Fuhr’s skate and into the net. Then there’s the context of the game itself, which was the seventh game of a second round series against the rival Calgary Flames, and Smith’s goal was the marker that sent the Oilers packing. But the goal gets worse yet when you consider that Smith’s mistake may have been the only thing that stood between the Oilers and five-straight Stanley Cups.
After Smith’s goal ended the series, the Flames went on to defeat the St. Louis Blues in seven games and earn a berth in the Stanley Cup final. Had Edmonton made it past Calgary, maybe it’s the Oilers, not the Patrick Roy-led Canadiens, that win the 1986 Stanley Cup.
1. Chris Phillips’ mishandle results in Stanley Cup winner — June 6, 2007
Historically, Smith’s goal is the one that stands out the most, and while losing in Game 7 is heartbreaking, at least Smith wasn’t partially responsible for the goal that sealed a Stanley Cup victory for the opposition. Phillips can’t say the same.
In a series that was remarkably tight through four games — all but Game 3, a Senators’ win, ended with a one-goal margin — Ottawa entered Game 5 looking to get back within one game of Anaheim, who had taken a 3-1 series lead. After the first period, the Ducks had their first two-goal lead of the series, but that was cut in half midway through the second when who else but Daniel Alfredsson got the Senators on the board. But, roughly four minutes later, disaster struck.
With the Senators down 2-1, Phillips was heading back behind his net to pick up a puck that had been settled down by Ray Emery. As Phillips reached the puck, pressure by Rob Niedermayer forced him to quickly make a move to the right. As Phillips started to move the puck, though, it got caught in Emery’s skate, who then pivoted and pushed the puck across the goal line, giving Anaheim a 3-1 lead.
Alfredsson scored his second of the game before the period was out, but the Ducks would net another before the end of the frame and tack on two more in the third. The 6-2 final score meant Travis Moen’s goal, which was credited to him on Phillips’ error, stood as the Stanley Cup winner. Oof.