The Seattle Kraken’s league debut was sunk by a kicked-in goal.  The Vegas Golden Knights scored the go ahead goal off the skate of forward Chandler Stephenson.

The Kraken rallied from a three-goal deficit, tying the Vegas Golden Knights eight minutes into the third period of Tuesday night’s game.  Thirty seconds later, the puck deflected off Stephenson’s skate and slid past Seattle goaltender Phillip Grubauer to put Vegas up 4-3.

Referee Graham Skilliter immediately signaled a goal on the play.



The NHL’s Situation Room immediately reviewed the goal, discussing the play with Skilliter and referee Francois St. Laurent.  The league reviews all goals to ensure the puck crossed the line legally; this does not include goaltender interference or offside reviews which are handled via Coach’s Challenge.

After a brief review, the call on the ice was confirmed.  Good goal.

“I really wasn’t too sure [if it would count],” Stephenson said of his game-winning tally. “I was kind of asking around what the ruling was, and I guess it being on the outside of my skate helped a lot.”

Recently-retired NHL referee Tim Peel thought it shouldn’t.

“I don’t think this should have been a goal,” Peel shared on Twitter. “He clearly directed it into the net. My humble opinion!”

Kicking is covered in Rule 49:

A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net with his skate/foot. …

A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player’s skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal. A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate shall be a legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident.

There’s no question that the puck went off Stephenson’s skate or that he intentionally moved his skate to direct the puck into the net. The challenge comes around the league’s definition of a distinct kicking motion.

“I know what I saw and believed … I thought it was a kicking motion,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s a gray area on those calls. Their decision was it’s a good goal.”

The final ruling on the play was made by the NHL’s Situation Room.

Prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, the NHL made a tweak to how kicked-in goals are handled by clarifying the definition of a distinct kicking motion.

A “distinct kicking motion” … is one where the video makes clear that an attacking player has deliberately propelled the puck with a kick of his foot or skate and the puck subsequently enters the net. A goal cannot be scored on a play where an attacking Player propels the puck with his skate into the net (even by means of a subsequent deflection off of another Player) using a “distinct kicking motion.” 

A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking Player’s skate who does not use a “distinct kicking motion” shall be ruled a goal. A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate shall also be ruled a goal, as long as no “distinct kicking motion” is evident. 

Goals are allowed to stand where the attacking player directs the puck in, even via intentional movement of the skate.  Their line is more around propelling the puck when it comes to kicking motions.

The call on the Stephenson goal is consistent with goal reviews since that change.  Take a look at this legal goal from Winnipeg’s Nate Thompson:

Or this one from Filip Forsberg:

In both cases, the attacking player turned their skate and moved their foot to deflect the puck into the net.

The types of ‘distinct kicking motion’ no longer permitted are those that propel the puck in.  Note that this doesn’t just change the puck’s trajectory, but provides significant momentum, as on this disallowed goal from Alex Wennberg:

The NHL has taken steps to loosen up goals permitted to be scored off skates by allowing intentional movement of the foot to guide a puck in.  They’ve stopped short of allowing all kicked goals to stand, as the Western Hockey League now permits when the puck is outside the goal crease.


For more, check out the NHL’s Video Rulebook explanation of a ‘distinct kicking motion’ and when a goal should be allowed.