Too many men? NHL explains why disputed Avalanche OT goal counted

Jun 23 2022, 2:23 pm

During Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final last night, Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri scored an overtime-winning goal that lifted his team a 3-1 lead  in the final NHL series of the year.

Prior to last night, Kadri hadn’t played since June 4 after suffering a thumb injury in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, and his goal appeared to be a pretty great storybook ending to the night.

But not so fast.

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper gave a press conference that barely lasted two minutes, only answering one question before saying he’d speak to the media the next day. Cooper was clearly frustrated about the way the game ended, without diving into specifics.

“You’re gonna see what I mean when you see the winning goal,” Cooper said. “My heart breaks for the players because we probably still should be playing.”

Screenshots and alternate camera angles then paraded their way to Twitter timelines and Facebook groups, showing Kadri coming onto the ice well before Nathan MacKinnon (who he changed for) returned to the bench. While the Avalanche looked to have had six skaters on the ice right before the goal, a too many men penalty was not called.

Almost immediately after coming onto the ice, Kadri then received a pass around the blue line before going in to score the goal.

From the NHL rulebook on the too many men penalty:

  • Players may be changed at any time during the play from the players’ bench provided that the player or players leaving the ice shall be within five feet (5′) of his players’ bench and out of the play before the change is made.
  • When a player is retiring from the ice surface and is within the five
    foot (5’) limit of his players’ bench, and his substitute is on the ice,
    then the retiring player shall be considered off the ice for the purpose
    of Rule 70 – Leaving Bench.
  • If in the course of making a substitution, either the player entering
    the game or the player retiring plays the puck or who checks or makes
    any physical contact with an opposing player while both players
    involved in the substitution are on the ice, then the infraction of “too
    many men on the ice” will be called.

Sound confusing? Well, it’s designed that way. MacKinnon was not within five feet of the bench when Kadri entered the ice, and appeared to still be on the ice (but within five feet of the bench) by the time Kadri had come into contact with the puck.

Lightning beat reporter Chris Krenn offered this angle of the play:

Per ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, the NHL offered up this explanation for why the Avalanche goal stood:

A too many men on the ice penalty is a judgement call that can be made by any of the four on-ice officials.

Following the game, Hockey Operations met with the four officials as is their normal protocol. In discussing the winning goal, each of the four officials advised that they did not see a too many men on the ice situation on the play.

This call is not subject to video review either by Hockey Ops or the on-ice officials.

Hate it or love it, it’s not changing now. Controversy or not, the Avalanche take a 3-1 lead in the series, and are one win away from winning the Stanley Cup.

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