It was the right place, wrong time for referee Kendrick Nicholson on Tuesday night in Buffalo. On the scoresheet, Ryan O’Reilly’s goal for the Sabres was unassisted, but it wouldn’t have been possible without a key deflection from the official.
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey looked to move the puck from behind his own goal line. Rather than clear the puck around the dasher, Hainsey appeared to go for a bank shot off the far boards.
In attempting to get out of the way, Nicholson found himself in the direct line of fire. The puck caught him in the leg and deflected into the faceoff circle.
O’Reilly gathered in the puck, catching the Leafs off guard, and fired the puck past goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Rule 85 reminds us that officials are in play, for the most part.
Play shall not be stopped if the puck touches an official anywhere on the rink, regardless of whether a team is shorthanded or not.
If a goal is scored as a result of being deflected directly into the net off an official, the goal shall not be allowed.
“The puck went in our net,” said Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. “I thought, to tell you truth, I don’t know what we were down to start, but it looked to me like we had the puck and we were controlling the play. When they fired it on the net, it hit something and it went in our net. We couldn’t keep it out of our net. In the end, we end up chasing the game. They played hard and we didn’t get enough done.”
It was an unfortunate bounce for the Leafs and an uncredited assist for the referee.
Nicholson’s lucky, though, at least the puck didn’t catch him in the face.