After rallying to tie the game in the final minute of regulation, the San Jose Sharks defeated the St. Louis Blues on a controversial overtime goal.

San Jose’s Timo Meier was on his knees in the offensive zone when the puck caromed off the boards right to him. Unable to get it with his stick, Meier batted it toward the slot, right to Gustav Nyqvist.

79.1 Hand Pass – A player shall be permitted to stop or “bat” a puck in the air with his open hand, or push it along the ice with his hand, and the play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of the on-ice officials, he has directed the puck to a teammate, or has allowed his team to gain an advantage, and subsequently possession and control of the puck is obtained by a player of the offending team, either directly or deflected off any player or official.

In this case, the puck was clearly batted across the ice. Whether or not it deflected off the leg of a Blues player is immaterial, since St. Louis took neither control nor possession of the puck.  The hand pass – even with a possible subsequent deflection – still resulted in an advantage for the Sharks.

The play should’ve been blown dead.

It wasn’t.



Instead, Gustav Nyquist passed the puck — legally, with his stick — over to Erik Karlsson, who fired one past Jordan Binnington to claim a 5-4 win.

The Blues protested.  The refs huddled.

Nothing, though, could be done.

Hand passes are not eligible for video review.

“It’s a non-reviewable play,” series officiating supervisor Kay Whitmore said after the game. “You can read between the lines. You can figure out what you want. You watched the video. But it’s just non-reviewable. I know that sounds like a cop-out answer, but that’s the truth.

“The way the rules are written, any chance there is to review, everything is reviewed that’s reviewable. But as the rules currently stand, the play is non-reviewable.”

Per Rule 38.4 (ix), the league reviews all goals for eligible violations, including: puck over the line, puck in before net was dislodged, puck in before time expired, puck kicked in with a distinct kicking motion, puck batted or thrown into the net, puck deflected in off an official,  puck deflected in by a high stick, or “to assist the Referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g. to ensure they are “good hockey goals”). For example (but not limited to), pucks that enter the net by going through the net meshing, pucks that enter the net from underneath the net frame, pucks that hit the spectator netting prior to being directed immediately into the goal, pucks that enter the net undetected by the Referee, etc.”

In the final minute of regulation and any time in overtime, they also automatically review any plays eligible for Coach’s Challenge, namely goaltender interference and possible offside plays.

You’ll notice that missed calls during game play aren’t included there. A puck touched with a high stick and then played by the offending team can’t be reviewed if the officials miss it.

Same for a missed hand pass.

“Yeah, it was a hand pass,” said St. Louis winger David Perron. “We’re going to try and move forward and the league’s going to take care of it like they’ve done in the past so far in the playoffs.”

It’s not clear if Perron was referring to the league addressing the play behind the scenes with the officials, or the apology issued to the Vegas Golden Knights for a major penalty call that led to the Sharks’ Game 7 victory in the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I didn’t really get an explanation,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. “I guess there’s a different set of rules for two different teams. I’m sure they’ll lose some sleep tonight after looking at it.”

Even the Blues’ general manager couldn’t hold back his frustration with the non-call.


One official weighed in on the play.

Anyone who blames the on-ice officials tonight in the SJ-STL game as never been there. The referee down low is looking through the net and the goaltender and trying to watch for penalties and cannot see the hand pass.  The linesman directly behind Meier can’t see if he gets the puck with his hand or not because he’s looking at Meier’s back. The linesman on the bench side cannot see through the defenders to have a clear, certain sight line to be 100% certain to disallow a goal due to a hand pass. And the referee out high may not be necessarily looking at this play because it isn’t his responsibility as he is – correctly – not puck-focused in this situation.

It’s easy to get the call right with the benefit of multiple replay angles.  Perhaps that’s something the NHL will need to take into consideration.

“There’s a group of people (GMs) that will make that decision at some point,” said Whitmore.

For now, though, all we can go by is what’s seen on the ice in real-time, at least when it comes to things outside the scope of the current review rule.

The hand pass was missed.  The teams played on.  Seconds later, San Jose scored to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Final.

Tough call.   Tougher loss for the Blues.