Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson scored the go-ahead goal on a shorthanded penalty shot after getting tripped up in the neutral zone.

Atkinson was tripped up by Carolina Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen after intercepting a pass off the faceoff and racing up ice.



The Columbus center was hoping to draw a penalty, but he wasn’t expecting a penalty shot.

“I guess they changed the rule where if it’s the far blue line and it looks like you have a clean breakaway [and are fouled], it’s a penalty shot,” said Atkinson. “I didn’t know that, but I’ll take it.”

Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour was equally surprised.

“I’ve never seen that, a penalty shot called from the blue line,” said Brind’Amour. “Usually they give you a chance to see if the guy’s gonna catch him or whatever, but I guess that’s the rule now. I’m not sure.”

There was, in fact, a change made to the penalty shot criteria. Previously, you had to be on the attacking side of the red line; the league later expanded it to the entire neutral zone.

That rule change, by the way, was made in 2007.  Brind’Amour played three seasons in the league with that version of the rule in place before retiring in 2010.  It’s been on the NHL books since before Atkinson was drafted in 2008.

Here’s the current rule on penalty shots (57.3):

When a player, in the neutral or attacking zone, in control of the puck (or who could have obtained possession and control of the puck) and having no other opponent to pass than the goalkeeper, is tripped or otherwise fouled from behind, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team. Nevertheless, the Referee shall not stop play until the attacking team has lost possession of the puck to the defending team.  The intention of this rule is to restore a reasonable scoring opportunity which has been lost. If, however, the player fouled is able to recover and obtain a reasonable scoring opportunity (or a
teammate is able to gain a reasonable scoring opportunity), no penalty shot should be awarded but the appropriate penalty should be signaled and assessed if a goal is not scored on the play.

“Control of the puck” means the act of propelling the puck with the stick, hand or feet.

In order for a penalty shot to be awarded for a player being fouled from behind, the following four (4) criteria must have been met:

(i) The infraction must have taken place in the neutral or attacking zone (i.e. over the puck carrier’s own blue line).

(ii) The infraction must have been committed from behind.

(iii) The player in possession and control (or, in the judgment of the Referee, the player clearly would have obtained possession and control of the puck) must have been denied a reasonable chance to score. The fact that the player got a shot off does not automatically eliminate this play from the penalty shot consideration criteria. If the foul was from behind and the player was denied a “more” reasonable scoring opportunity due to the foul, then the penalty shot should still be awarded.

(iv) The player in possession and control (or, in the judgment of the Referee, the player clearly would have obtained possession and control) must have had no opposing player between himself and the goalkeeper.

If, in the opinion of the Referee, a player makes contact with the puck first and subsequently trips the opponent in so doing, no penalty shot will be awarded, but a minor penalty for tripping shall be assessed.

Let’s break down the criteria as it applies to this play.

  1. The infraction took place in the neutral zone.  This one caught some off guard, as neither Atkinson, Brind’Amour, or the broadcast team realized a penalty shot could be awarded to an infraction occurring on the defensive side of the red line.  To be fair, it’s not that common, but that’s just how this play developed and where the foul took place.
  2. Committed from behind, you say?  This is probably the most debatable of the criteria. Atkinson had a step on Teravainen, whose stick came up when they were nearly beside each other. At the point Atkinson was tripped up, though, he was clearly ahead of the Hurricanes winger.
  3. No question Atkinson had possession and control and was denied a reasonable scoring opportunity.
  4. There was no opposing player between Atkinson and the goalie. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton was alongside Atkinson, but never between him and the goalie.


That’s four-for-four on the penalty shot criteria.  And one-for-one on the shot itself.

Columbus went on to win the game 3-2.

Referees for the game were Chris Rooney and Ghislain Hebert. Linesmen were Tyson Baker and Jonny Murray.