Seven events involving the NHL penalty shot took place within six days spread across 82 years. On November 11, 1998, New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer scored on a penalty shot, and exactly 18 years later, in 2016, another Devils defenseman, Andy Greene, scored on one in overtime. These were just the latest in a long line of November penalty shots. The first penalty shot and the first successful penalty shot occurred on November 10 and November 13, 1934. Almost 25 years later, on November 8, 1959, the referee mistakenly let the opposing goalie choose the player shooting against him. On November 9 and 11 in 2005, Carolina Hurricanes left wing Erik Cole became the first player awarded two penalty shots in the same game and then became the second to be awarded penalty shots in consecutive games. Clearly, the week of Veterans Day, the NHL calls the shots.
In 1934, the NHL began allowing penalty shots, hoping to increase excitement during the Great Depression. They had been invented by Lester and Frank Patrick for the Pacific Coast Hockey Association before it folded. The rules governing the shot started out as quite restrictive with players only able to shoot from within a ten-foot-wide circle 38 feet from the net. At the season opener at Maple Leafs Gardens on November 10, Montreal Canadiens forward Georges Mantha had his breakaway interrupted by Bill Thoms. The announcer proclaimed, “Oh my, looks like that’s going to be a penalty shot.” Indeed, Mantha was awarded the first NHL penalty shot, however the victim did not need to take the shot. Instead, Coach Newsy Lalonde chose Armand Mondou, who chose to shoot from a stationary position, allowing Maple Leafs goaltender George Hainsworth to easily catch the puck. Three days later, on November 13, St. Louis Eagles defenseman Ralph “Scotty” Bowman made the first successful penalty shot. While taking a shot, his teammate Syd Howe was tripped by Montreal Maroons defenseman Stew Evans. Eagles coach Eddie Girard chose Bowman to face Maroons goaltender Alex Connell. Unlike Mondou, Bowman decided to skate the puck, and his shot “found the left corner of the mesh, just past Connell’s right shin.” He had tied the game, but the Eagles then lost in overtime.
In 1959, referee Dalton McArthur made a big mistake during the November 8 matchup between the Boston Bruins and the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. After Blackhawks Al Arbour threw his stick at Bruins Bronco Horvath, McArthur rightfully called for a penalty shot, but he then went to the wrong bench to select the shooter. To him, the non-offending party was the one defending, as the Blackhawks were at the time. In the end, goalie Glenn Hall (with Coach Rudy Pilous) chose Larry Leach as his opponent. Meanwhile, Horvath had planned to take the shot himself but was turned back as his manager (Lynn Patrick) and coach (Milt Schmidt) wildly objected McArthur’s actions. As the Blackhawks had intended, Hall easily stopped Leach, but the Bruins still won 5-3. However, Horvath then lost the scoring championship by one point (to Blackhawks Bobby Hull), that could have been his with the penalty shot. McArthur later commented that “if he never had to call another penalty shot it would be too soon for him.” It has been ranked seventh in the top ten blown calls. Perhaps this debacle led to the rule made the following year that only the victim could take the penalty shot.In 2005, Erik Cole of the Caroline Hurricanes had three penalty shots in two consecutive games. On November 9, he made one and missed one against goalie Martin Biron, but having two shots made him a trail blazer. Better still, the shot he made, while the team was shorthanded, turned out to be the game-winning goal. The Hurricanes defeated the Buffalo Sabres 5-3, which continued their winning streak to eight games (a franchise record). At the next game, on November 11, Cole was awarded another penalty shot after being pulled down during a breakaway. He was only the second (after Los Angeles Kings center Esa Pirnes in 2003) to be awarded in consecutive games. Although Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo blocked the shot, Cole went on to assist the only goal of the game. The Hurricanes’ streak extended to nine games. By the time he retired, Cole had seven penalty shots, putting him in a three-way tie for most penalty shots by any Hurricanes player. November 11 has twice been a date for Devils’ penalty shots. In 1998, Scott Niedermayer was tripped by a Montreal Canadiens defenseman during a break away and took the 13th penalty shot awarded to a Devils player. He had also taken the 11th, but this time he zig zagged and made the shot, the 8th Devils goal from a penalty shot. The Devils won the game 3-0 at Continental Arena. It took another 18 years before a Devils’ defenseman converted on a penalty shot. In 2016, the Devils played the Buffalo Sabres into overtime, and 29 seconds in, their captain, Andy Greene, had his breakaway interrupted by Evander Kane. Greene worried about embarrassing himself saying, “I didn’t want to become the next YouTube sensation.” He wished “they would let someone else take it on the ice.” Instead, Greene “slipped a forehand between the pads of Sabres goaltender Anders Nilsson,” becoming the first on the Devils team to make a penalty-shot goal in overtime. The Devils earned their third straight victory winning 2-1 there at the KeyBank Arena.
Between 1934 and the end of the 2017-18 season, the NHL awarded 1,748 regular-season penalty shots. Of them, about one third, 580, were successful goals.