With scoring down across the NHL, every goal is significant. Equally important is preventing them, even if you have to go to illegal measures to do so.
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy did just that on Tuesday night.
With the score tied at two, the Los Angeles Kings had a terrific scoring chance. Goaltender Mike Smith was down and sliding backward into his net as the puck bounced in the crease. That’s when Murphy took it upon himself to collect the puck and clear it out of harm’s way.
It was a great move. It was also an illegal one, covered under Rule 67.4:
If a defending player, except a goalkeeper, while play is in progress, falls on the puck, holds the puck, picks up the puck, or gathers the puck into his body or hands from the ice in the goal crease area, the play shall be stopped immediately and a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team.
Murphy got away with this one.
Had he merely pushed the puck away, it would’ve been fine. Players are allowed to push the puck along the ice, even in the goal crease. By closing his hand to gather in the puck and pulling it under his body before pushing it towards the faceoff circle, he committed an infraction.
The punishment would’ve been a penalty shot. Marian Gaborik would likely have loved to have that opportunity in the third period of a tie game. He’s been there before. He faced Mike Smith once before on an overtime penalty shot attempt that Smith somehow stopped.
Of course, a penalty shot isn’t exactly an automatic goal. Of the ten penalty shots awarded this season, goals have only been scored on two of them. Last season, players scored on 34% of penalty shot opportunities.
Though the official was right on top of the play, he’s contending with a fallen goaltender and multiple players in the crease, making it easy to lose sight of the puck. Once that happened, the referee whistled the play down.
(For those who’ve asked, this play is not eligible for video review by the Situation Room, nor is it eligible for a Coach’s Challenge.)
Here’s another angle, via @myregularface:
The Coyotes scored the go-ahead goal shortly after, en route to a 3-2 win.
Interestingly, there was a penalty called in the game for closing hand on the puck. It came against the Kings’ Alec Martinez late in the second period. Los Angeles killed off that penalty without incident.
Referees for the game were Tim Peel and Dave Jackson. Linesmen were Andy McElman and Brandon Gawryletz.