Pro Hockey Talk Year In Review: Best NHL goals of 2021

Pro Hockey Talk is taking a look back at the year in hockey. We’ll be presenting you with the best NHL goals, saves, stories, players and more as we remember 2021.

Goals. In a given NHL season, there are thousands of them. In the grand scheme of things, many of us would prefer even more.

But, leafing through what the NHL provided in 2021, it’s clear that there were many, many great goals. Inevitably, this best NHL goals of 2021 will miss some. Hopefully, nothing too iconic. Either way, feel free to share your own favorites in the comments, via Twitter, or some other means.

(To keep this post from being too unwieldy and tough on browsers, we’ll skip blooper goals. So feel even freer to share those.)

Why it’s dangerous to throw out the phrase ‘that Connor McDavid goal’

Truly, it’s easy to lose track of jaw-dropping Connor McDavid goals. Again, this post is likely to miss some other great NHL goals from 2021, and the same could be said for McDavid specifically.

McDavid is referred to as a video game cheat code come to life because he often makes this all look too easy.

So, when you say “that Connor McDavid goal,” you risk confusion. In this calendar year, or even just this chunk of the 2021-22 season alone, he’s served up a veritable buffet.

Blame recency bias, but McDavid shredding through the Rangers defense — basically by himself — currently slots in as “that Connor McDavid goal” for me.

It’s not just blazing speed that allows Connor McDavid to score so many coast-to-coast goals. His ability to pull off high-skill plays at warp speed is what separates McDavid from fast players whose hands can’t always keep up with their feet.

With McDavid, his brain, feet, and hands create a symphony of destruction for opposing defenses. Which might explain why “that coast-to-coast McDavid goal” isn’t even always specific enough. Why, just earlier this calendar year, McDavid tore through the Maple Leafs defense in a similar way.

That Zegras – Milano goal

Speaking of moments that unleashed John Tortorella’s grumpiest side, there’s a moment where you can just say “that [blank] goal.”

At least for now. Assuming Trevor Zegras brushes off Torts tirades in the same way McDavid (hopefully) does, it wouldn’t be surprising if the ultra-creative Ducks forward authors more moments of true brilliance.

But, goodness, his lacrosse-style assist to Sonny Milano remains one of the best NHL goals in recent memory, let alone 2021.

Barzal, and other top goals from the 2020-21 season

Simply put, it’s easier to maintain context by calling the previous season the “2020-21 season” even if it began in 2021. But, yeah, if you just want to call it the 2021 NHL season, that’s reasonable enough.

Either way, that shortened campaign wasn’t short on great goals. The NHL conveniently packed 10 great goals from the 2021 (2020-21) season in this video:

If you want some personal favorites from that video:

  • Number eight, Tyler Toffoli vs. the Canucks, starting at the 57-second mark. It’s nifty, and also captures the bitter taste of Toffoli scoring against a Canucks team that sure seemed like it could have re-signed him at a reasonable clip. Ouch. Extra ouch after all that’s happened, and with Jim Benning no longer running the show.
  • Number six, T.J. Oshie vs. the Penguins, around the 1:57 point. I’m a sucker for diving goals, and Oshie finished it one-handed.
  • That was followed by two great Blue Jackets goals (Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine), as well as another shot of McDavid burning the Leafs. Brent Burns‘ celebration after his goal was almost as good as his stickwork.
  • Finally, Mathew Barzal‘s tremendous goal against the Sabres took the top spot. Even if you want to mock Rasmus Ristolainen, that’s still a beauty.

Goals that stand out from 2021 because of context like history

In some cases, there are some top NHL goals of 2021 as much for history-making as their singular beauty.

To me, Yanni Gourde‘s shorthanded goal (the lone one of Game 7) vs. the Islanders felt like possibly the most important of the past playoffs. Maybe that’s a mark against an anticlimactic Lightning – Canadiens 2021 Stanley Cup Final series, but still.

Ryan Donato ended up scoring a fairly nice goal for the first in Seattle Kraken history.

Obligatory Ovechkin section

In 2021, Alex Ovechkin climbed the all-time goals list, and reached various milestones. In November, Ovechkin passed Brett Hull for fourth all-time in goals with his 742nd tally.

Might as well include Ovechkin reaching 750 goals early in December, too, eh?

Ovechkin added two more before the end of 2021, giving him 752 goals. Here’s where he sits all-time:

  1. Wayne Gretzky – 894 goals.
  2. Gordie Howe – 801 goals.
  3. Jaromir Jagr – 766 goals.
  4. Alex Ovechkin – 752 goals.
  5. Brett Hull – 741 goals.
  6. Marcel Dionne – 731 goals.

The burning question, then, is where will Ovechkin rank in all-time goals through 2022? Could he pass Jagr and even Howe? Don’t be surprised if Ovechkin doesn’t just climb the list some more, but scores his goals in best-of-the-year-level style.

(As a bonus in this post, enjoy the top 10 shootout goals from 2021, at least by Sportsnet’s choosing.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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    NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

    Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

    Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

    “The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

    The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

    A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

    “We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”

    Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

    The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

    They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

    Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

    Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.