With just 1:11 left to play and the New York Rangers clinging to a one-goal lead, Derek Stepan may have single-handedly prevented the tying goal.   ‘Hand’ being the operative word.   Watch as he pushed the puck — sitting precariously close to the goal line — under netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

So, was this a legal play?   Yes, thanks to some smart work by Stepan.

Watch the near-goal again and you’ll see Stepan use the side of his glove to push the puck under Lundqvist.   He was careful not to close his hand on the puck or to cover it with his won body.  Had he done that, the Kings would’ve been awarded a penalty shot.  Here’s the official rule:

Rule 67 – Handling Puck

67.4 Penalty Shot – 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.

“Most of it is just reaction,” Stepan said after the game. “You don’t have much time to think in a situation like that. It’s just instinct and reaction.  I got very lucky pushing it under the goaltender. A lot of times, you push it into the back of your goalie, or you push it to one of their guys.”

Nearly as impressive as the effort from Stepan was the work by referee Wes McCauley, who worked hard to ensure he was properly positioned all game long.  Earlier in the game, he aggressively moved to a spot in front of the goal line, alongside the crease, to ensure he could see the puck rather than blow the play down.

On this play, he grabs on to the net to get the best view of where the puck is and how it’s being played.  Kudos to him for a spectacular effort throughout the game to be in the best position to make the right call.

Follow us on Twitter – @scoutingtherefs