John Tavares did not like being taken out of the play on a solid hip check by New Jersey’s Marek Zidlicky. Boy, did he let him know it.
With the score tied at 2 late in the third, the Islanders captain lashed out at Zidlicky, spearing the Devils’ blueliner below the belt. Zidlicky dropped to his knees in pain.
Tavares headed to the box, with referees Greg Kimmerly and Dan O’Rourke calling a minor for slashing on the play.
The NHL Rulebook defines slashing as “a player swinging his stick at an opponent.” Spearing, on the other hand, is “stabbing an opponent with the point of the stick blade.”
It’s interesting to note that a minor penalty cannot be called for spearing. If the officials deemed that a spear took place, the minimum penalty for a spear that makes contact with an opponent is a major penalty with a game misconduct. (There’s a double-minor, but only if no contact is made.)
Had the referees called a spear a spear, so to speak, Tavares would’ve been gone for the game. He also would’ve been ineligible to participate in the shootout, per Rule 84.4.
Instead, Tavares left his team shorthanded for the duration of regulation and the first :11 of overtime. The Isles were able to hang on and win in a shootout.
Zidlicky Calls Spear ‘Unnecessary’
Zidlicky was uninjured on the play, but he wasn’t happy about it.
“I don’t think it was necessary. I don’t know what to say. It is what it is,” said Zidlicky after the game. He added that the spear hurt “a little bit the first couple seconds. He hit my stomach, but I’m OK.”
Zidlicky was okay, but you’d have to think the Devils would’ve liked their chances with Tavares tossed from the game… as he probably should have been.