David Backes and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)
It helps to be on the ice in order to score a goal in the NHL, but it's not imperative. You just need a whole lot of good luck.
There’s an axiom in hockey that “you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.”
Technically, that’s not true. It turns out an NHL player can be credited with a goal without touching the puck on the shift in question.
It nearly happened on the second night of the season in a game between the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers. From a faceoff in the Blues’ zone while they were on a penalty kill, David Backes won the draw back to Alex Pietrangelo who attempted to clear the puck. His shot caromed off teammate Alex Steen and pinballed directly past stunned goalie Brian Elliot.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who lost the faceoff but got a piece of the puck on the draw, was credited with the goal. Had Backes won the faceoff cleanly, the last Oiler to touch the puck on the previous shift would have received the credit. In this case, it was Taylor Hall, who happened to stay on the ice for the power play.
However, according to NHL statistician Benny Ercolani, even if Hall had been on the bench, the goal would have been his. He just wouldn’t have been awarded a “plus”. Ercolani says the scearnio has played out a few times in NHL history.