When Marian Hossa put the Chicago Blackhawks ahead 4-1 with an empty net goal late in the third period, it seemed the series against the Minnesota Wild, who were down 3-0 to Chicago, was all but over. But two quick Wild goals later, and Hossa's fourth goal was more a savior than the cherry-on-top of the Blackhawks' win. It was also the first time in nearly a quarter-century that a series was decided thanks to an empty net goal.
The goal itself came from a good distance, roughly 170 feet away from the Minnesota net, with the Wild on a power play following a Bryan Bickell penalty for boarding. Seconds after Minnesota had hit the post, the puck slid out front to Jonathan Toews who pushed it along to Hossa, who, because of the penalty to Bickell, was free to fire the puck down ice without fear of icing. It took him one chance to find the back of the net:
After Hossa's goal, though, the Wild stormed back into the Chicago end. Only 49 seconds had passed since Hossa's marker when Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeron let go a shot from the blueline that was deflected by Jason Pominville and through the legs of Corey Crawford. Then came a Nino Niederreiter tally 51 seconds following the Pominville goal. With 1:27 remaining, all of a sudden it was a one-goal game.
Thanks to Crawford, the Blackhawks' defenders and a too-many-men penalty by Chicago, the end to the game was frantic and hurried, but Hossa's empty-netter stood as the winner. The last time that happened? April 28, 1991.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, via the NHL's PR twitter account, the last time an empty net goal decided a series was when Bobby Smith scored against the St. Louis Blues. Smith's team at the time? The Minnesota North Stars.