Kuzmin’s beauty in context
by Andrew Podnieks|28 APR 2021
photo: Ryan McCullough / HHOF-IIHF Images
When Belarus’s Dmitri Kuzmin scored his beautiful lacrosse-style goal yesterday, he added his name to a small but growing list of players to have scored in that thrilling manner. 

But Kuzmin’s goal was historic in one way, though. He is the first defenceman to score a lacrosse goal, all previous players with the quick hands and brave hearts having been forwards.
Like everything else in the game his goal seemed so much faster and more skilled than some of the earlier incarnations. Here is a look at the history of those goals:

1993—Bill Armstrong, a career minor leaguer who played one NHL game in 1990-91, was the first to use the lacrosse move in a game. "As a pro, you're on the ice a lot,” he once explained of the move’s genesis. “I learned to pick up the puck pretty well on my stick. I originally would pick it up coming down the wing in stride, spin around and throw it over my shoulder, like a lacrosse shot. One day, I was standing behind the net, picked it up, and put it in the top corner. I thought, 'Jeez, that might be something I could actually use in a game.’ I worked on it in my spare time. Worked on it at hockey schools while the kids were practicing plays. I was playing in Hershey. I didn't want to try it in a game and miss. When I was traded to the Devils, I played in Albany, New York, with the River Rats. I did it for fun in our East-West games. My coach, Robbie Ftorek, said, 'You do it so easily, why don't you try it?' So I did. I scored four goals with the move. The fans there got to know it because they ran a piece on local television. So I would get behind the net and I'd hear the fans yelling, 'Do it! Do it!' We called the shot the 'do it.' When I went to the IHL, they asked me what to call it. I said, 'I guess you call it the high wrap.'"

Armstrong was even able to describe how to execute the play: “First thing you do, you lay the blade of the stick as flat on the top of puck as you can. Then, you try to tip the puck back so it's on its back edge. Most people from this point try to turn their wrist to pick the puck up. But you need leverage. So you pull it back, and then flip your wrist -- give puck momentum to get on top of your stick. It's all about feel."

March 24, 1996—Mike Legg asked Armstrong to teach him the move, and he used it when he got to the University of Michigan. Legg was alone behind the net and had time to roll the puck onto the blade of his stick and whip it in over the glove of University of Minnesota goalie Steve DeBus.

November 28, 2003—While playing for the Rimouski Oceanic in the Q, 16-year-old Sidney Crosby scored on the move. Similar to Legg, he was alone behind the net and had time to flip the puck onto his blade. Being a lefty, though, he came out the other side and “high-wrapped” it in. “Incroyable!” the play-by-play announcer said in amazement. 

May 13, 2011—Mikael Granlund scored a lacrosse goal at the World Championship in Bratislava during Finland’s 3-0 win over Russia in the semi-finals. He took it up a notch, though. The play started off a faceoff in the Russian end. Granlund beat Dmitri Kalinin to the puck in the corner, skated around defenceman Dmitri Kulikov, and while skating by Kulikov got the puck onto his stick blade and whipped the puck in in one motion. It looked so natural and easy no one knew what had happened until it was in.

October 29, 2019—More than a quarter century after Armstrong’s first goals, the lacrosse move finally made it to the NHL. Many players had tried to score, but none had succeeded until Russian Andrei Svechnikov beat Calgary goalie David Rittich. Similar to the Legg and Crosby goals, Svechnikov got the puck behind the net. He was alone and had time to flip the puck onto his blade, and stuffed it in the near side.

December 17, 2019—Svechnikov did it again! This time the game was in Winnipeg, and Connor Hellebuyck was in net. And this time the play started from the other corner. Svechnikov had more motion and speed to work with, and like Granlund he used his body’s speed to flip the puck up as he skated behind the net and whipped it in high to the far side. Interestingly, Jets defenceman Neal Pionk could see what was happening and tried to whack Svechnikov’s stick while the puck was on the blade, but he missed and Svechnikov scored.

December 26, 2019—Perhaps inspired by Svechnikov from just a week earlier, Nils Hoglander scored a lacrosse goal for Sweden at the World Junior Championship in a preliminary round game against Finland. Hoglander cut in from the right corner, and while goalie Justus Annunen hugged the post to prevent a goal to the short side Hoglander quickly moved the puck to his stick and went around the net to stuff it in over the shoulder of Annonen.

April 27, 2021—Kuzmin became the latest to score on the lacrosse move. His was a hybrid of the two main ways the goals have been scored. He eluded one check, got the puck onto his stick in motion, and whipped it in the far side before another defender could check him. 

“I got the puck at the blue line and went behind the net. I decided to try the move, and luckily I was successful,” he described. “I practised it a lot during training camp and I scored twice during the Belarus national championship, so tonight I had confidence to do it and it worked well. I practise it from both sides, so it doesn't matter which way I try it.”

Post script—Crosby tried to score on February 1, 2021, against the Rangers, trying something no one had ever done before—a backhand lacrosse goal. Rangers’ goalie Igor Shestyorkin managed to jam his shoulder into the top corner of the goal frame to prevent the historic play from succeeding.