The NHL’s decision to go from four-on-four overtime to the new three-on-three format just may be the league’s greatest rule change since eliminating the two-line pass back in 2005. It has provided us, the fans, with countless breathtaking moments, reduced the number of shootouts and has brought new life to the annual All-Star Game all while keeping us on the edge of our seats.
Here we take a look back on the best overtime goals from the 2015-16 season, the inaugural season of the NHL’s new three-on-three play. From dazzling breakaways to pretty passing plays, we have your fix for the NHL’s best overtime goals last season.
One of the greatest things about three-on-three overtime is that the ice becomes an open playground – there’s just so much room for activities (queue Step Brothers reference). With all of the open ice that exists in overtime you know the speedsters are coming out to play, and this more times than not ends up in breakaway opportunities. Breakaways aren’t just for the speedsters, however.
Jason Garrison vs Philadelphia
If you could go back in time and predict who would be the first player to score the NHL’s first three on three overtime goal, chances are Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison wouldn’t be in your top 50 choices. Well, that’s exactly who will go down in history as the first three on three overtime hero, and he couldn’t have done it in better fashion.
Though it’s not the flashiest of breakaway goals, it’d be wrong of me to exclude this from the list due to the history behind the finish and the fact that Garrison will forever own the honour of being the first to score in three on three overtime. A classic breakaway finish from a rushing defenseman proved that three on three was for just about everyone.
Kyle Palmieri vs Detroit
What’s better than a tape-to-tape pass to spring a breakaway OT goal? An alley-oop pass from blue line to blue line to spring a breakaway OT goal, that’s what. Don’t believe me? Just watch Kyle Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils bury this sauce-dish on the Red Wings.
Teams have been using the alley-oop during five-on-five play a lot more recently compared to past years, but the new overtime format allows for its use much more frequently to create chances, and man has it been fun to watch. The only people who aren’t fans are the defensemen and goaltenders, but can we really blame them?
Jeff Carter vs Nashville
Smarts. Patience. Finish. These three words are the only words you need to describe this next goal by the LA Kings’ Jeff Carter.
After an incredible defensive play by Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty to break up the Predators’ three-on-one attack, ‘Dewy’ threw a perfect backhand pass up to Carter who buried his breakaway chance up and over a sprawling Pekka Rinne to win the game in overtime. Doughty’s defensive work and pass up ice were great plays on their own, but the patience by Carter to get Rinne swimming before roofing the puck past him was the key to capping this overtime win. Just a great overall play by the Kings to take home two points on the night.
Gustav Nyquist vs Vancouver
Consider this a “partial-breakaway” if you want, but this winner from Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist against the Canucks is up there with my favourite overtime goals of all time.
If you can find me a better goalie pass to spring a three-on-three breakaway from last season, please comment below. Petr Mrazek’s feed up to Nyquist was a phenomenal heads-up play to give “Goose” the breakaway chance and the Swedish winger made no mistake after taking the time to place his shot low past Ryan Miller. Goalie feeds need to happen more often because that was a pure thing of beauty.
With so much open ice, breakaways can’t be the only thing making the highlight reel. In three-on-three overtime it’s constant back and forth action, meaning there’s fanciful passing going up and down ice nearly the full five minutes, or until someone scores. This leads us to our next section of overtime winners – passing plays.
Ondrej Palat vs Winnipeg
Ever wonder what a textbook three-on-one passing play finish looks like? Look no further; Palat and the Tampa Bay Lightning are here for your entertainment.
That’s as nice as passing plays get, simply put. The drop pass, the cross crease pass – everything was executed perfectly to carry out that tic-tac-toe finish. As far as passing plays go, this just may be the best one from last season, but I’ll let you decide.
Shayne Gostisbehere vs Carolina
From defense to offense – your team’s transition game better be strong if you hope to have any chance in overtime. Check out the Flyers’ OT winner below for reference.
After Gostisbehere pokes the puck away from an attacking Hurricanes’ player he joins the rush with Jakob Voracek headed the other way, eventually being rewarded for both his defensive and offensive instincts. Voracek makes the nasty dangle around the Carolina defenseman before passing it off to Gostisbehere across the crease to bury home the winner. What a dish, what a finish.
Bobby Ryan vs St.Louis
Prepare yourselves, there’s a lot to take in on this next OT winner from the Ottawa Senators. I promise, however, that you won’t be disappointed.
Both Ryan and Mark Stone seemed to have troubles controlling the puck on the play prior to the goal but somehow they still made it work. After a great keep at the blue line to stay on the attack, Stone and Ryan would capitalize on a pretty passing play that included some saucer work and a phenomenal deke to the backhand that beat the Blues’ netminder to give the Sens the win. This play nearly had it all, and as a result was a shoe-in to make this list with no questions asked.
This is where the jaw-dropping action comes to life. These individual efforts will make you fall madly in love with three-on-three hockey – you know, in case you haven’t already.
Evgeny Kuznetsov vs Florida & Detroit
Washington Capitals’ forward Evgeny Kuznetsov made this list not once, but twice, and before you start questioning my decision to leave out another player’s overtime winner just watch the two goals below.
If you enjoyed that, you’ll appreciate this effort against the Red Wings too.
Both goals showcase Kuznetsov’s edgework and ability to shake defenders before putting coming up clutch for his team. The 24-year-old is quickly emerging into one of the league’s top centers and it’s easy to see why.
Ryan O’Reilly vs Los Angeles
The comedy in the celebration is great, but the goal itself is just ridiculous.
The slap-fake, the toe-drag, the snipe top-shelf… what’s there not to love about this OT winner. O’Reilly embarrasses the Kings to crack a spot on this overtime list and probably a lot of others.
Jonathan Toews vs Tampa Bay
Don’t blink on this next goal or you might miss a move or two.
Hacked and hooked at for what seemed like an eternity, Toews turns the Lightning defenders inside out and jams the puck home for this beauty of a finish. What a great individual play from “Captain Serious”.
Alex Ovechkin vs New York Rangers
While Braden Holtby’s save prior to Ovechkin’s rush helped lead to the goal, the individual effort by Ovi to cap this win for Washington afterwards was spectacular.
Ovi takes the puck behind his own net and decides to put the team on his shoulders with this finish. After burning Rick Nash at the blueline Ovi challenges Ryan McDonaugh by cutting in front of the Rangers’ net and ripping a shot past Henrik Lundqvist for the win. End to end rushes are some of the best goals in hockey, and the Great Eight sure knows how to deliver.
With all of these highlights coming from three-on-three overtime, we have to wonder what magical moments will stand out from this year’s collection of overtime winners. I don’t know about you, but three-on-three is quickly becoming my favourite form of hockey due to goals like we’ve seen here. Bring on next year’s edition.