Referees Kelly Sutherland and Chris Rooney had their whistles out on Monday.  Only three playoff games this season saw more penalty minutes than the 34 racked up by the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers on Monday night.  The seven minors called in the first matched a playoff-high; no game has had more.  Only one game this postseason saw more power plays than the 11 handed out to the Bolts and Blueshirts. 

Y Rangers vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Both teams looked to take advantage with the extra skater.  Tampa went 3-for-6 with the man advantage, while the Rangers went 2-for-5.  Of course, New York also gave up a brutal 3-on-5 shorthanded goal to open the scoring, so it’s fair to say that Tampa decidedly won the special teams battle.   The Lightning have scored power play goals in their last three games, going 5-for-12 on the man advantage over that stretch. The Rangers penalty killing unit that killed off 13 straight penalties against the Capitals has given up four goals in the first two games against the Lightning. Their 10 kills in Games 1 and 2 against Tampa were as many as they had to handle in the final four games of their series against Washington.

The tightened standards were quickly apparent as the march to the penalty boxes began just 3:38 into the game, when Chris Rooney whistled Brian Boyle for holding.  

In total, 14 penalty minutes were handed out over the first 20 minutes of play.

“Well, we know what their standards are tonight,” said coach Vigneault during Monday night’s game. The whistles slowed as the game progressed. Players adjusted to the penalty standard enforced by the officials – one somewhat stricter than had been seen in this postseason. Just two minors were called in the second period, both to Tampa.  The third period saw just three minor penalties, all to the Rangers, and one in the final three minutes with the game out of reach. 

Dejan Kovacevic praised the officials over at DK on Pittsburgh Sports

Game 2 last night between the Lightning and [Rangers] introduced a largely foreign concept to this postseason in the form of actual officiating: Kelly Sutherland and Chris Rooney absolutely kicked tail. They whistled obstruction from the first shift to the last, and they did it against both sides. They called hooking, holding, tripping, you name it.  And lo and behold, the more skilled team put up a touchdown.   Amazing how that works, huh?  

NHL Rulebook by Josh Smith from Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract

(Image by Josh Smith, from Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract

NY Post scribe Larry Brooks also touched on the same topic during the Rangers’ first round series against the Penguins.

“The NHL has decided fans and the sport are better served when its officials turn blind eyes toward the hooking, holding and obstruction fouls for which there was supposed to be zero tolerance coming out of the canceled 2004-05 season,” wrote Brooks. “Whistle to whistle also means playing unless there is a whistle. If grabbing is allowed, then why not?  But why? That’s the question no one can seem to intelligently answer.”

Brooks must have been thrilled with the whistles – frantically tweeting more on the ice than beat writers on their smartphones – on Monday night.

Retired referee Kerry Fraser certainly was, as he wrote in his column on TSN

I thought the standard of enforcement employed by referees Kelly Sutherland and Chris Rooney was excellent. The refs didn’t put the ‘regular season’ rulebook or the whistle away as we have seen far too often in the playoffs to this point. Their performance was a refreshing change. We can always point to a call here or there to be critical of. Other than a missed trip committed by Matt Carle at the side of the Tampa net in the second period, the officiating was very good. These two refs should be the standardbearers moving forward in the Conference Finals right through the Cup Final.

We need to give credit where credit is due and I applaud the overall performance of the officiating crew in Monday night’s game.

Now, the question is: will referees Brad Watson and Eric Furlatt pick up where the Game 2 crew left off?  We’ll have to wait and see.  Puck drop is at 8:15.

 Take a look back at all the action from Game 2 between the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning: