The Minnesota Wild nearly completed an incredible comeback to force overtime in Game 4 against the Chicago Blackhawks. Down 3-1, they pulled goaltender Devan Dubnyk for an extra skater. After allowing an empty net goal to Marian Hossa, the Wild continued to play with six skaters. Minnesota scored twice in less than a minute to make it a one-goal game at 4-3.
With 15 seconds to play, Chicago was caught with too many men on the ice. Andrew Shaw went to the penalty box to serve the two-minute minor penalty. The NHL rulebook, though, has a slightly different set of terms for certain late-game penalties.
Rule 74.4 advises:
If by reason of insufficient playing time remaining … a bench minor penalty is imposed for deliberate illegal substitution (too many men on the ice) which cannot be served in its entirety within the legal playing time, or at any time in overtime, a penalty shot shall be awarded against the offending team.
That’s right, a penalty shot. Much like the mandatory penalty shot for deliberately knocking the net off its mooring in the final two minutes, a late call for a deliberate illegal substitution mandates a penalty shot.
Rule 74.4 relates specifically to a deliberate illegal substitution. Retired referee Kerry Fraser gave a bit of background on this particular rule:
During the original six team era, a coach made a mockery of a game when his team was playing two men short with a third player also sitting in the penalty box on a delayed minor and less than two minutes remaining in regulation time. At this point it made no difference how many minor penalties were called against the team so after each face-off the frustrated coach dumped another player over the boards and received yet another bench minor for too many men on the ice. These subsequent penalties had no effect for the on-ice numerical strength and the only purpose for the coach was to embarrass the referee and the game through this delay tactic. A rule was put into the book to differentiate between “deliberate” illegal substitution and a routine too many men on the ice we see on a line change.
In this case, though, it didn’t appear to be deliberate. The Blackhawks made a very poorly-executed line change that left them with an extra skater on the ice. Even though Chicago had six out there for an extended duration, it didn’t appear to be an intentional move.
Because of that, Rule 74.4 does not apply. Referees Marc Joannette and Steve Kozari, along with linesmen Scott Cherrey and Shane Heyer, made the right call by assessing a standard minor penalty.