October 16, 2016 - Losing Without Allowing a Goal

Ryan Miller Almost Joins a Short List

For fifty-six minutes last night, it appeared as if Ryan Miller would join an exclusive club. Despite stopping every shot that he'd faced against visiting Calgary, Miller and the Canucks were on the short side of a 1-0 deficit. Midway through the first period, Miller went to the Vancouver bench for an extra attacker on a delayed Flames penalty to Troy Brouwer. Teammate Loui Eriksson, looking for a teammate back in his own zone, tossed a pass back from near center. As you've probably guessed, no was there to retrive the effort, and the puck slid into the vacated Vancouver net before defenseman Erik Gudbranson could get to it. 1-0, Calgary.

Miller held his club in the game, and with four minutes left in regulation, Eriksson, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin put together a tremendous (and tremendously long) shift before putting the puck past Chad Johnson to knot the game. The game went to overtime, and then a shootout, where Miller stopped all four shots faced, and Brandon Sutter beat Johnson to secure the Vancouver win.

So Miller ended up with twenty-five saves on twenty-five Calgary shots (and four additional saves in the shootout), getting the win and the first star of the game. But what might have been?

Seventy-Eight Times (But Seventy-Four In A Shootout)

Between 1970 and last night, seventy-eight National Hockey League goaltenders have been credited with an official loss, despite not allowing a goal against.

That sounds like a lot, yes? Well, let's eliminate seventy-four of them right off the bat - because the losses occurred in the shootout. Thirty-nine goaltenders earned official shutouts in the process (from Miikka Kiprusoff on December 6, 2005, through Ondrej Pavelec on April 9, 2015).

Some of the more notable shootout losses:
(*) Ottawa's Andrew Hammond came in for Craig Anderson on March 1 of this year, stopping 17 shots to push the Senators' game against St. Louis into a shootout. Hammond then stopped the first ten Blues shooters in the shootout, before allowing a tally to Patrik Berglund on the eleventh shot.
(*) On November 24, 2014, Philadelphia's Steve Mason stopped forty-six New York Islander shots, but fell in the shootout when the Islanders' Jaroslav Halak held the Flyers off the scoreboard as well.
(*) Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators stopped thirty-eight Detroit shots to force overtime, then nine of eleven shots in the shootout. Unfortunately for Rinne, Jimmy Howard matched Rinne save for save in the Red Wings net.
(*) Miikka Kiprusoff was the first to lose a shutout shootout, stopping 37 Philadelphia shots on December 6, 2005. Antero Niittymaki kept Calgary off the board, too, and Mike Richards beat Kipper in the shootout.

Murphy, Cloutier, McLennan, Gosselin

So - who's left? There are four interesting cases - goaltenders who lost regulation games without allowing a goal. Let's work backwards.

Suffice it to say that Mike Murphy's National Hockey League debut was an interesting one. Called up from AHL Charlotte, Murphy was on the bench on December 6, 2011, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. Cam Ward was the starter for the Hurricanes, but was blitzed by an impressive Flames offense. Murphy entered the game midway through the third period, and Carolina closed the gap to 6-4. The Hurricanes pulled Murphy for an extra skater in an attempt to get even, and Calgary's Jarome Iginla took advantage, putting the puck into the empty net for a 7-4 advantage. Chad Larose and Eric Staal then scored for Carolina, making the Flames' win a 7-6 one, and the Iginla empty net goal was the game-winner.

Murphy therefore became the first goaltender in National Hockey League history to suffer a loss prior to allowing a goal. To this date, Murphy has never allowed an NHL goal.

December 6, 2011 - Carolina at Calgary boxscore at the Hockey Summary Project.

After starting the first two games of the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2000-2001 season, Dan Cloutier was on the bench behind Kevin Weekes for the club's next two games, and then as the Lightning hosted Minnesota on October 18, 2000. With 1:46 remaining in the contest, and the club down 5-4, Dan replaced Weekes and was then pulled for an extra skater. The Wild's Marian Gaborik scored into the empty Tampa Bay net with 58 seconds remaining. Fredrik Modin got the Lightning within one just forty seconds later, but time ran out, and Cloutier earned the loss (not facing a single shot on goal).

October 18, 2000 - Minnesota at Tampa Bay boxscore at the Hockey Summary Project.

Now we turn our attention to the Stanley Cup playoffs! In 1999, the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes waged an epic playoff series, with the Blues triumphing in seven games, with Grant Fuhr winning the deciding seventh game 1-0 in overtime (Pierre Turgeon beat Nikolai Khabibulin to send St. Louis to the conference semifinals against Dallas.

Fuhr may have won the series, but he struggled in Game Three at home. The Coyotes scored three goals on Fuhr in the first 8:31, sending Jamie McLennan into the fray. Phoenix didn't get a shot on McLennan for the remainder of the first period, and Fuhr re-entered the St. Louis net to start the second. When Louis DeBrusk beat Fuhr 2:35 into the period, McLennan returned to the Blues' net, this time to stay (at least for the remainder of the game). Facing a 4-0 deficit, the Blues crawled back with goals from Pavol Demitra, Terry Take, and then Geoff Courtnall in the third period. Trying to send the game to overtime, St. Louis pulled McLennan, and Shane Doan found the empty net. When Blair Atcheynum scored on Khabibulin at 19:45, it made Doan's empty-netter the game-winner (and McLennan a playoff loser, despite stopping all seven shots he faced).

April 25, 1999 - Phoenix at St. Louis boxscore at the Hockey Summary Project.

Mario Gosselin is the last (and therefore, the first) goaltender on this list of dubious achievements. After spending parts of six seasons with the Quebec Nordiques, Gosselin signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings in June of 1989, and was backing up Kelly Hrudey as the Kings hosted the dynastic Edmonton Oilers on November 30. Hrudey struggled (as many goaltenders did facing those Oilers), allowing six goals on twenty shots as the Kings fell into a 6-2 deficit.

Enter Gosselin, and a Los Angeles comeback. Luc Robitaille made the score 6-5 for the Oilers early in the third period, and the Kings pressed late, pulling Gosselin for an extra attacker. Craig Simpson gave the Oilers an insurance goal into the empty net, a goal that would become necessary when Bernie Nicholls scored on Grant Fuhr at 59:24. The Oilers would win, 7-6, and Gosselin would get the loss even though he stopped six of six shots.

November 30, 1989 - Edmonton at Los Angeles boxscore at the Hockey Summary Project.

Standard caveats - this list only goes back to 1970 (although I have hand-inspected the data for 1967-68, 1968-69, and 1969-70, and there are no instances there. If you're aware of anything, or would like to add details, please send me a note (e-mail address below).