Can a team score a goal without the puck ever crossing the goal line?

As the Minnesota Wild learned last night in their 4-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, absolutely.

Trailing 4-2 with the goalie pulled, Knights winger David Perron hooked Minnesota’s Eric Staal in the neutral zone as the puck slid along the boards.  When Staal finally touched the puck below the goal line, referee Brad Watson – arm raised for the delayed penalty – pointed to the net, signaling an awarded goal.

From the NHL Rulebook:

25.1 Awarded Goal – A goal will be awarded to the attacking team when  the opposing team has taken their goalkeeper off the ice and an attacking player has possession and control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone, without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal, and he is prevented from scoring as a result of an infraction committed by the defending team

Rule 57.4 also applies to this case:

Awarded Goal – If, when the opposing goalkeeper has been removed from the ice, a player in control of the puck (or who could have obtained possession and control of the puck) in the neutral or
attacking zone is tripped or otherwise fouled with no opposition between him and the opposing goal, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, the Referee shall immediately stop play and award a goal to the attacking team.


There you have it.  Brad Watson, with 25 years in the league and nearly 1,300 games under his belt, knew it cold.

Good call, ref.