Vegas Golden Knights forward Mark Stone showed some serious hand-eye coordination when he batted the puck out of the air to score the insurance goal against the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Florida head coach Paul Maurice just wanted to make sure it was legal.
Stone intercepted a clearing attempt from the Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk before firing a shot from the slot that eluded goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Golden Knights a 4-2 lead with 6:20 remaining.
Rule 80 covers pucks being played with a high stick in the NHL:
Batting the puck above the normal height of the shoulders with a stick is prohibited. When a puck is struck with a high stick and subsequently comes into the possession and control of a player from the offending team (including the player who made contact with the puck), either directly or deflected off any player or official, there shall be a whistle.
Since the puck was batted down and played, the standard is shoulder-height; had the puck gone directly in, it would be crossbar-height.
Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice contested the deflection, challenging that Stone played the puck above the shoulders.
On this play, the league would be looking for the position of the puck when it contacted his stick. While part of his stick may be above shoulder-height, the specific concern on this review is the height of where the puck actually makes contact.
Referees Wes McCauley and Dan O’Rourke conferred with the Situation Room
“Upon review of the play there was no high stick on the play, so we’ve got a goal,” O’Rourke announced. “We’ve got a bench minor penalty for delay of game.”
The failed challenge put the Panthers shorthanded, trailing by two.
“I was really impressed with the speed they came back with a ‘no,'” Maurice joked after the game. “I think they were just excited about getting us into the box one more time.”
The Panthers spent plenty of time in the box; they were whistled for eleven penalties on the night, compared to five for Vegas. The Golden Knights went 2-for-7 on the power play, while Florida was 0-for-3.
Here’s the official ruling:
The Situation Room supported the Referee’s call on the ice that Mark Stone’s stick was not above the normal height of his shoulders when he contacted the puck at 6:21 of the third period (13:39 elapsed time) – two seconds prior to his goal.
The decision was made in accordance with Rule 80.1.
It’s interesting to note that the Situation Room did not say that the review was inconclusive, as they’ve done in certain situations in the past. That, along with the relatively quick review, would indicate that the league was confident that Stone’s deflection was below shoulder height.
The rule also specifies that it’s the “normal height of the shoulders” – not the current height of the player’s shoulders. With Stone leaning to the side, this likely puts his stick at well below the normal height of his shoulders.
Ah, if only there were some sort of puck tracking technology that existed in the puck that would allow the league to determine the exact height at which the puck actually contacted Stone’s stick. If only.
The Panthers went 13-for-17 this season, including 3-for-3 in the playoffs coming into Saturday’s game. The Panthers had been correct on their ten previous challenges, dating back to February.
All time, Maurice is now 5-for-7 on playoff challenges.
Paul Maurice when asked about the speedy high-stick review 🎙
— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) June 4, 2023
The Vegas Golden Knights tacked on an empty-netter to win the game 6-2. Officials were refs Wes McCauley (#4) and Dan O’Rourke (#9) with linesmen Scott Cherrey (#50) and Jonny Murray (#95).