Sometimes you get away with one…
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne made a heads up play to stop the puck and send the play back up ice. Only what he did wasn’t exactly legal.
Rinne caught a fluttering puck in the slot. Rather than dropping it and playing it with his stick, he threw it forward, over the head of Minnesota’s Eric Staal. Nashville’s Miikko Salomaki corralled the loose puck and cleared the zone. All good? Not exactly.
The NHL rulebook specifies that a goaltender is not permitted to throw the puck forward. A penalty was handed out a few weeks back in the ECHL in a similar situation.
Rinne was smart not to drop and cover the puck. He almost certainly would’ve picked up a delay of game penalty for stopping play that far from the goal crease.
From Rule 63.2, Delaying the Game:
A minor penalty shall be imposed on any player, including the goalkeeper, who holds, freezes or plays the puck with his stick, skates or body in such a manner as to deliberately cause a stoppage of play. With regard to a goalkeeper, this rule applies outside of his goal crease area.
If a goalkeeper comes out of his crease to “cut down the angle” on a shot and after making the save covers the puck, this shall be legal. If the goalkeeper races out of his crease in an attempt to beat the attacking player to the puck and instead of playing the puck jumps on the puck causing a stoppage of play, this shall be a minor penalty for delay of game.
Officials typically grant some leeway around the net, but not so when the keeper is up at the hash marks. Instead of stopping play, Rinne opted to move the puck. Legally, he would have been required to drop the puck and play it with his stick.
Rinne’s actions are covered in Rule 67 – Handling the Puck, specifically in 67.3:
A goalkeeper shall be assessed a minor penalty when he throws the puck forward towards the opponent’s net. In the case where the puck thrown forward by the goalkeeper being taken by an opponent, the Referee shall allow the resulting play to be completed, and if goal is scored by the non-offending team, it shall be allowed and no penalty given; but if a goal is not scored, play shall be stopped and a minor penalty shall be imposed against the goalkeeper.
No call was made on the play, and no pucks ever made it past the Nashville netminder for the remainder of the game. Rinne was solid on the puck all night, earning a 4-0 shutout over the Minnesota Wild. He also managed to avoid the long arm of the law.
Referees for the game were Dan O’Halloran (#13) and Furman South (#44). Linesmen were Andrew Smith (#51) and Travis Gawryletz (#67).