It's the most embarrassing thing that could happen to a hockey player - scoring into your own net and an empty one at that.
That's exactly what happened to Montreal Canadiens defenceman Ryan O'Byrne, who scored an own goal on a delayed penalty Monday night to allow the New York Islanders to tie the game and force a shootout that they ultimately won.
"The puck was kind of chipped off the boards and I went back to get it and play it back to Price and I didn't realize he wasn't in the net," O'Byrne said. "I had to face the music, right? They were chanting my name at the end, the fans, probably not for the right reason but once again, it happens to everybody and tomorrow's another day."
The mistake capped off an already tough sophomore year for O'Byrne, who's been struggling in the early going with his defensive play. The 6-5, 230-pound blueliner didn't play another shift after the own goal, which was probably the wise thing to do with the Bell Centre boo birds on his case.
"Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller and Doug Jarvis did that to protect him and that was a smart move," said NHL on TSN analyst Pierre McGuire on Tuesday. "If it were me, I would also try to protect him and tell him that it's a snippet of a long season. I would also hang it (the delayed penalty) on the group rather than the individual. There was some miscommunication there and it wouldn't have happened if the other four skaters on the ice simply yelled out that there was a delayed penalty."
Carbonneau was quick to defend the 24-year-old O'Byrne.
“The game yesterday was yesterday,” said the Canadiens' head coach. “We lost in a tough way but we've got more games to go and that's how we want to concentrate our efforts. Ryan is a strong guy, that's why he's in the NHL. He made a mistake, and we turn the page. You're a zero one day and a hero the next day – I learned that a long time ago.”
O'Byrne will undoubtedly be making the highlight reels over the next couple of years for all the wrong reasons, but can take solace in the fact others have committed such a memorable gaffe - and in more meaningful situations.
Last October, Maple Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe similarly drew the wrath of Toronto fans in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres. With Buffalo on the power play and less than five seconds left in the extra period, winger Ales Kotalik took a shot and McCabe, who was battling for the loose puck in a goal-mouth scramble, put the puck past goaltender Andrew Raycroft and into the Leafs net.
"What can you say about luck on my part?" McCabe said after the game. "I tried to clear it, the goal was on me. I certainly didn't mean to put it in the net."
While the Leafs failed to make the playoffs, the Washington Capitals were able to squeeze in for an exciting postseason run. But spring hockey in the U.S. capital almost didn't happen thanks to rookie centre Nicklas Backstrom.
With the score tied 2-2 in a Mar. 9 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Backstrom - trying to steer a cross-crease pass by Sidney Crosby into the corner - put the puck in his own net with 27.9 seconds left in the third period. The Penguins won the game 4-2, handing the Capitals a potentially devastating blow to their playoff hopes.
"I thought I was further in corner and I was just trying to put it behind the net," Backstrom said at the time. "It happened and I can't do anything about now. I just have to go on and play the next game. It's not the best situation when I did it, so it's hard. But you have to go on. I'm just 20 years old. I feel sorry for my team. That's all I can say."
Like O'Byrne, former NHL defenceman Rob Ramage will also be remembered for scoring into his own empty net. But Ramage's gaffe also happened to make NHL history. In a game between the Colorado Rockies and New York Islanders during the 1979-80 season, the Rockies had already pulled their goalie for an extra attacker and were pressuring Isles goalie Billy Smith for the equalizer. Smith was the last player to touch the puck for the Islanders before Ramage picked it up and tried to send it back to the point as he was pinching in. No one was there to take the pass, however, and it slid all the way down the ice into his own goal. It was the first time an NHL goaltender was given credit for scoring a goal.
And just about every hockey fan knows about Steve Smith's infamous own goal. Edmonton's rookie defenceman fired the puck off the back of goaltender Grant Fuhr's skate and into the net, breaking a 2-2 tie with the Calgary Flames in Game 7 of the 1986 division playoffs and costing Edmonton a chance at a threepeat.
"If anything, that was the worst own goal ever," said McGuire. "At the time, that goal ended Edmonton's dynasty and saw the potential rise of another one in Calgary."