In ice hockey, when a team is losing by one goal in the waning minutes, the goalie is often replaced by another player, giving more offense, but creating the risk of an empty-net goal.

How often do teams that pull the goalie end up scoring?
How often does the other team score?
How often does the trailing team wind up winning?

  • 1
    Have you done any research at all into this?
    – Nij
    Feb 25, 2017 at 23:48
  • 1
    This is very common and the teams behind have scored many goals that way, of course they've given up many empty net goals too
    – alamoot
    Feb 26, 2017 at 0:55
  • 5
    Bebs, I hope you don't mind, because of the responses suggesting it is common, I took the risk of editing your question to one that better reflects the commonness, while still staying towards the same intent. Please do change it back or express your unhappiness with me if it no longer a question you wish to ask. Cheers Feb 26, 2017 at 13:42
  • 1
    @JeopardyTempest. Thank you. It is very rare to see hockey on my country, and I personally never saw that situation working. In my country, football is very obvious and questions about rules (as we can find here) could also be considered as obvious, but are still accepted here.
    – Bebs
    Feb 26, 2017 at 14:48
  • 1
    The just-crowned Penguins scored twice with their goalie pulled to force an overtime in their second-round playoff series against the #1-seeded Washington Capitals..... but then lost in OT. Just a related bit of trivia.... Jun 12, 2017 at 15:40

2 Answers 2


Quoting from this FiveThirtyEight article, itself quoting Donald Morrison:

"If you pull the goalie with two and a half minutes to go, you have a 19 to 20 percent chance of tying the game"

That's a model rather than empirical data based on actual games, but certainly gives us some sort of idea as to a success rate.


Exact statistics are hard to find, but given the nature of hockey it's definitely a winning strategy.

One of the key ways to score a goal in hockey is to get shots on net. It doesn't matter if it's a particularly good shot. If a goalie's save percentage is .900, if you get thirty shots there are good odds you'll score 3 goals, whether they're flukey or artwork.

And one of the more sure ways to get shots in hockey are either odd-man rushes where players have lanes to put the puck on net, or when they have a man advantage and a player can get into empty space. This is why the power-play, and being short-handed are often central to hockey strategy. If you can group 5 really good players on a powerplay against a team with weak special teams, your odds of scoring increase by a huge amount.

This line of thinking also applies to pulling the goalie. When there are six attackers versus five defenders, the attacking team has far better odds of scoring a goal due to increased shooting lanes and an easier time retaining possession. When at even strength they might be lucky to get one quality scoring chance in 2-3 minutes, with an extra attacker they might get three or four, or even more.

In other words, if they pull the goalie there are much better odds that they'll score a goal, if they don't pull the goalie there are much better odds that they won't score a goal. Since a goal is what they need, pulling their goalie is a good idea.

  • Its also the winning strategy because, well, you don't sacrifice much. If you are already losing by one goal, well, losing by two doesn't change much. But tying the game is a huge win. So yeah, its a risky bet, but its not like the ante is very steep.
    – Fredy31
    Jul 19, 2021 at 20:27

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