In ice hockey, when a team is losing by a goal in the last few minutes, the coach usually pulls the goalie and replaces them with another player, leaving the net empty, but this doesn't matter since goal difference isn't as important as it is in a sport like football.

If they are losing by 2 goals (sometimes 3 in a playoffs game) they usually pull the goalie with about 2-3 minutes remaining.

If they are losing by 1 goal, they usually pull the goalie with about 90 seconds remaining.

However, I've seen in some situations, a team is losing by 1 goal, so they pull the goalie, but then the other team scores an empty net goal. Now the team is down by 2 goals, but where they would usually pull the goalie when losing by 2, they actually put the goalie back in.

Why is this done? Is it just because the empty net goal demoralizes the team? Or they think they have no chance of coming back from being 2 goals down with only a minute or so left (as opposed to the usual 2-3 minutes)?

Note: There are cases where the above doesn't apply, like yesterday Colorado were losing 1-0 against Detroit when Patrick Roy pulled the goalie with 3 minutes left (he often pulls the goalie very early) and the other team scored an empty net goal just after, but they kept the goalie pulled even though they were now 2-0 down (and the other team actually scored another empty net goal after that making it 3-0).

  • "but this doesn't matter" = well, it actually matter a lot. Pulling a goalie is a rather risky move.
    – DA.
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


they usually pull the goalie with about 2-3 minutes remaining.

This is correct, but only half the story. They pull the goalie when a small amount of time is remaining and the team has control of the puck in the offensive zone. Why you need control of the puck is I hope obvious, why only in the offensive zone: because there's too much risk of losing the puck one way or another while trying to advance it into the zone.

Given that, why they replace the goalie after a goal is scored is fairly easy: the just scored on team doesn't have control of the puck (it's going to be 50-50 after the faceoff) and they're not in the offensive zone. Pulling the goalie is already a high risk, desperation stakes tactic - doing so when you don't have good chance of getting off a good shot on goal moves it from "probably worthwhile" to "reduces your chances of winning".

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