The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins filled the penalty boxes in Game 3, but it was the guy who got out first that had fans puzzled.
The chaos began 5:35 into the third period of Thursday night’s game. A play at the Pittsburgh net – which included a few whacks on goaltender Tristan Jarry from Isles forward Kyle Palmieri – sparked a scrum that sent all ten skaters on the ice to the penalty boxes. The Islanders lost Palmieri, Pageau, Mayfield, Wahlstrom, and Leddy. Pittsburgh saw Crosby, Guentzel, Rust, Letang, and Dumoulin head off. Guentzel picked up an additional two minutes for slashing Palmieri on his way to the box, giving the Islanders a power play.
The coincidental minors rule would have had the players sitting out for the full two minutes:
When multiple penalties are assessed to both teams, equal numbers of minor and major penalties shall be eliminated using the coincidental penalty rule and any differential in time penalties shall be served in the normal manner and displayed on the penalty time clock accordingly (see 19.5). If there is no differential in time penalties, all players will serve their allotted penalty time, but will not be released until the first stoppage of play following the expiration of their respective penalties.
Of course, the additional minor penalty meant only one penalty was going on the clock. That meant someone else was sitting — and that someone else would be getting sprung if the Islanders scored.
Here’s Rule 16.2:
When the minor penalties of two players of the same team terminate at the same time, the Captain of that team shall designate to the Referee which of such players will return to the ice first and the Referee will instruct the Penalty Timekeeper accordingly.
This supported by the NHL Rulebook’s lengthy table on scenarios involving a goal scored on a shorthanded team.
Captain’s choice. The minor penalty on Team B can cancel off with any one of the minor penalties assessed to the players on Team A.
The determination must be made at the time the penalties are assessed.
Pittsburgh’s Jason Zucker headed over to serve the extra two minutes, only to be sent back to the bench. Crosby could have had Zucker serve the additional minor to Guentzel, which would see Zucker return if a goal were scored, and would guarantee Guentzel’s release after his two minutes were up. He could’ve made the call that Letang goes on the clock, to be let out of New York scored.
Crosby made the call that his penalty would be the one on the clock as the lone non-coincidental call. That decision also meant that Guentzel’s penalty would see him remain in the box for at least four minutes. With no loss of manpower on the ice, he’d be stuck in there until the next stoppage after his four penalty minutes expired.
That’s exactly what happened. With the penalty boxes full, the Islanders made the most of their opportunity. New York scored on the power play just 19 seconds later to tie the game at 3-3.
The Islanders scored. Sidney Crosby left the penalty box. Guentzel stayed put. Just like the captain called it.
Referees for the game were Kelly Sutherland (#11) and Garrett Rank (#7). Linesmen were Jonny Murray (#95) and Bevan Mills (#53).