Remembering Patrik Stefan's infamous empty net goof, 10 years later

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“CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT WE JUST SAW?”

No one inside Rexall Place could believe what they had just witnessed, especially play-by-play man Peter Loubardias. The Edmonton Oilers were attempting one last gasp to try to tie the game against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 4, 2007, but Marc-Andre Bergeron whiffed on his attempt to get the puck up ice, allowing Patrik Stefan to poke it loose and send himself all alone toward the empty net.

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Stefan picked up the puck with 14.9 seconds left and the Stars holding a 5-4 lead that was about to become 6-4.

Little did everyone know what was about to happen.

Just as Stefan was shifting to his backhand, the puck hit bad piece of ice and jumped over his stick toward the corner. While trying to retain possession, Stefan slipped; and as he fell, he backhanded the puck back up ice where the Oilers’ Jarret Stoll retrieved it and quickly turned toward the Dallas end.

“I was 5, 10 yards behind him, trying to chase him down. [I] knew I wouldn’t get to him, basically,” Stoll told the Oilers website earlier this year. “I just picked up the puck and fired it up to Ryan Smyth at the blue line there.”

Smyth held himself onside for just a moment before racing toward the puck, knowing full-well that time was running out. He then backhanded a pass to the middle of the Stars’ zone where he found Ales Hemsky streaking, with Darryl Syder in hot pursuit. (Hemsky actually drew a delayed penalty on Sydor … or would it have been a late penalty shot?)

When Hemsky saw Bergeron lose the puck and Stefan approach the empty net seconds earlier, he began skating to the bench, expecting to change for what would be the final faceoff of the game.

“All of a sudden the people started cheering. I just looked and the puck was in the other end and we just start skating back to their net and Ryan made a great pass and it went in,” Hemsky told the Oilers website.

Stefan whiffed. Hemsky scored. The Oilers went from certain defeat to a tie game.

Everyone was in disbelief. Ray Ferraro, meanwhile, was not impressed with his former Thrashers teammate and let loose on the broadcast.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. Patrik Stefan, you should be embarrassed for what you just did. That does not belong in the National Hockey League. … That’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve seen on National Hockey League ice, and I’ve been around the game for 25 years at the pro level. That is unbelievable.”

***

“We were bestowed upon a miracle at the end,” Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish said afterward. “I have never seen anything like it. It’s one of those moments in hockey that you’ll remember forever. It turned a disaster into a debacle.”

Stefan’s miss gave the Oilers a second chance, but only helped to earn them one point, not two. The Stars, who at one point were down 4-1, would end up winning the game 6-5 after a shootout. But the last memory from the game would be the sequence that forced overtime.

“They may show it a million times for years to come,” said Stefan after the game. “I mean, we came out with the two points so it’s easy to laugh about it right now.

“It’s not like I missed the net, I saw it was bad ice and I had so much time so I just tried to carry it all the way to the net. As soon as I put it on my back hand it jumped over my stick. Not much I can do about that.”

***

Today, Patrik Stefan is a youth hockey coach and an agent, repping the likes of Michal Neuvirth and Pavel Zacha. He’s 36 now, nearly 20 years removed since the Atlanta Thrashers selected him as their first ever draft pick in 1999.

His NHL career lasted only 455 games, 41 of which came with the Stars. That forgettable sequence will never leave the blooper reels, but in the end, Dallas would win the game and Stefan has taken that memory and uses it to help his young players.

“My kids asked me about that now,” Stefan told the Detroit Free Press in January. “My first thing about it is, bad things happen, unlucky, whatever it is.

“How are you going to respond after that? Good or bad? I tell the kids you can have a bad shift, bad game. There’s always next shift, next game. I didn’t kill somebody. It’s a game. Mistakes happen.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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