Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I would like you to weigh in on this.
Fifty seconds into the second period of last night's Leafs/Jets game, Nikolai Kulemin was shoved into the Winnipeg Jets net by Derek Meech, causing the net to become dislodged and simultaneously, the Jets recover the puck and maintaining possession the entire time proceed to score a goal on the Leafs. Looking at the rule book the only thing I found that would support play continuing is under Rule 63.2 "When the net is accidentally displaced by an attacking player, and the defending side is in possession of the puck and moving out of their zone, play shall be permitted to continue until such time as the non-offending team loses possession of the puck."
So was this a blown call which should have resulted in a whistle instead of the Jets goal, or a case of the officials making a judgment call that Kulemin could have kept from dislodging the net even though he was pushed in to it?
All of the variables you have suggested on a play of this nature would be considered by a referee as to whether play should be stopped or allowed to continue until the offending team gained possession of the puck. Rule 85 - face-off location states and implies that a resulting face-off would take place on one of the end zone spots unless the stoppage is caused by the attacking team.
The real question that must be answered is who should be deemed responsible for dislodging the Jets net on this play. To do so, we have to take a closer look at the referee's position and visual focus prior to and at the point that Nilolai Kulemin struck the crossbar and the net became dislodged from its moorings.
As the Leafs attack pushed near Ondrej Pavelec's goal crease, the referee is seen moving tight to the net from behind the goal line and visually focused on Mikhail Grabovski's shot after being set up directly in front of Pavelec by Kulemin. Derek Meech offered late support as a trailer on the play and his strong push directly on the back of Kulemin at the top of the crease would have most likely been undetected by the referee.
The push from Meech accelerated Kulmenin into the crossbar and as the Leaf forward raised his hands to defend himself against the impending impact, the referee turned his head and focus toward Nikolai Kulmenin. By catching the tail end of this play, the ref would have believed that Kulmenin had crashed the net and was responsible for knocking the net off the moorings. As such, the referee allowed play to continue until such time that the Leafs gained possession of the puck, as per Rule 63.2 and Mark referenced in his question.
From the replay, we of course know that it was the Jets player Derek Meech that was responsible for dislodging the net with his push from behind that caused Kulmenin's unavoidable contact with the crossbar. Had this been witnessed and determined correctly by the referee, play would have immediately been stopped and a face-off would have resulted to the left of Ondrej Pavelec in the Jets end zone. The subsequent Jets goal scored by Blake Wheeler would not have occurred.
Fortunately, the Jets' second goal of the game scored on this play did not affect the final outcome.