Sometimes, all it takes is a lucky bounce to set up a goal. Even if that bounce is off the official.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander took advantage of a deflection off the referee to open the scoring in Wednesday’s Game 4 against the Florida Panthers.
With the Leafs on the power play late in the first period, winger Michael Bunting looked to the puck around the end boards. Instead of rounding the bend, the puck hit referee Jon McIsaac – one leg up, bracing for impact – and deflected off his skate into the slot.
Nylander, clear of the defensemen who were working the boards, flipped a quick backhand past Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead.
It was an unfortunate bounce for the Florida Panthers, but a perfectly legal one. On-ice officials are in play; the whistle is not blown when a referee or linesman is hit by the puck, unless, of course, they are injured on the play.
From Rule 85.4 – Puck Striking Official:
Play shall not be stopped if the puck touches an official anywhere on the rink, regardless of whether a team is shorthanded or not.
A puck that deflects back into the defending zone off an official who is in the neutral zone, will be deemed to be off-side as per Rule 83 – Off-side.
The puck striking or deflecting off an official does not automatically nullify a potential icing.
When a puck deflects off an official and goes out of play, the ensuing face-off will take place at the face-off spot in the zone nearest to where the puck deflected off the official.
If a goal is scored as a result of being deflected directly into the net off an official, the goal shall not be allowed.
A goal cannot be scored directly off an official, so if the puck goes directly in, it’s no goal.
It can, however, set one up, as it did for Nylander.
The Toronto Maple Leafs went on to win the game 2-1 to force a Game 5 in their best-of-seven series against the Florida Panthers. Referees for the game were Jon McIsaac (#2) and Gord Dwyer (#19), with linesmen Michel Cormier (#76) and Devin Berg (#87).