“You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it’s all about.”
That was the credo of Michael Vronsky, played by Robert De Niro in the film, “The Deer Hunter.” For Vronsky, it applied to taking a deer with his rifle. But there might be a similar notion in hockey. The player who, with one shot, provides the goal that secures victory.
You would think that a player scoring a game-winning goal on his only shot of the game would be a rare occurrence. While not quite commonplace, neither is it all that rare. Take the Washington Capitals, for instance. Did you know…
- Of the Capitals’ 1,599 non-shootout wins in regular season history, 262 of them were the result of a player scoring a game-winning goal on his only shot of the game (16.4 percent).
- Those 262 instances were accounted for by 139 players, 27.3 percent of the 509 skaters to dress in team history.
- Dale Hunter and Dmitri Khristich have notched the game-winning goal on their only shot on goal most frequently in team history, doing it eight times apiece.
- Alex Ovechkin has never scored a game-winning goal on his only shot of the game. Then again, Ovechkin has recorded a single shot only goal only 55 times in 1,152 career regular season games (on six occasions he recorded a goal, none of them game-winners).
- Each of the other 30 franchises has been victimized at least once by a one-shot Capital. The New York Rangers are the most frequent victim (19 times), while the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights have been hit least often (twice apiece).
- Of the 262 instances of game-winning goals on a player’s lone shot of the game, 16 of them occurred in overtime. Kelly Miller was the only player to do it twice, scoring the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on January 31, 1988; and doing it again in a 3-2 overtime win in Carolina against the Hurricanes on January 16, 1999. Here’s the first of those two (an absolute beauty and one of the more memorable regular-season tallies in franchise history):
The other players on that one-shot-OT-goal list include:
- The Caps have had 23 instances of a player scoring a game-winning goal on his only shot of the game in the postseason. That is 17.0 percent of the 135 postseason wins in franchise history overall. Sergei Gonchar is the only Capital to do it twice, both times in the 1998 playoffs – April 22, 1998 in a 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins, and May 13, 1998 in a 2-0 win over the Ottawa Senators. The others include:
- Karl Alzner
- Nicklas Backstrom
- Jay Beagle
- Bobby Carpenter
- Jason Chimera
- John Druce
- Lou Franceschetti
- Bengt-Ake Gustafsson
- Calle Johansson
- Joe Juneau
- Rod Langway
- Brooks Orpik
- T.J. Oshie
- Rob Pearson
- Mike Ribiero
- Devante Smith-Pelly
- Scott Stevens
- Jakub Vrana
- Joel Ward
- Tom Wilson
- Jason Woolley
- Five of those single-shot game-winners in the playoffs came in overtime:
- John Druce’s overtime game-winner on his only shot on goal against the New York Rangers on April 27, 1990 (30 years ago yesterday) was the only instance of a one-shot game-winner being a playoff series clinching goal, coming in Game 5 as the Caps beat the Rangers, four games to one.
It was one of 14 playoff goals Druce scored in that postseason (most in team history until Alex Ovechkin posted 15 goals in the 2018 postseason) and one of two instances that spring in which Druce scored a goal in his only shot on goal in a game (Game 1 against New Jersey in the opening round, another game won in overtime, that on a Dino Ciccarelli goal that gave him a hat trick).
One shot. That’s what it’s all about.