Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators - Game Four

Last night the Montreal Canadiens were leading the Ottawa Senators through 50 minutes by a score of 2-0, when Chris Neil threw a puck towards the Habs net, and Mika Zibanejad directed the puck into the open net with his foot. The referee signaled goal, and the play went upstairs for review.

Here’s the goal.

The goal stood, and the Senators built on that to push the game to overtime, where they eventually won, and took a 3-1 series lead.

Needless to say, a large number of folks on Twitter (and likely outside of social media) disagreed with the call. You don’t need me to drag out straw men to beat up on (“that goal should’nt of counted!”), but a Twitter search for “kicked in Zibanejad” will tell you all you need to know.

Here’s the official NHL rule on scoring off skates:

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.

SO. Should it have counted?

Probably, but man, is that ever one tough call. If you shuck yourself of biases, it’s tough to pin down the right answer, given the fact that Zibanejad seems to want to kick that puck in the net.

There’s no doubt that Mika Zibanejad definitely meant to propel the puck into the net with his foot, and that seems to be what the rule is designed to avoid, but given the strict definition of the language – distinct kicking motion – I think the goal should count.

He does make a little kicking motion, but it doesn’t really come until after the puck has deflected in off his skate. It hits him while he’s stopping and angling his blade, so the mini follow-through is almost inconsequential, regardless of what he was going for.

I think there’s enough of a motion there that had the call on the ice been “no goal,” the evidence in the video would not have been enough to overturn the call and rule it a goal. But with the call on the ice as it was – goal – you have to let that one stand.

Maybe the score had some affect on the call. Maybe the game being in Ottawa mattered. Who knows? But everything considered, I believe the right call was made, regardless of the fact that Zibanejad did seem to have the intent to kick the puck in the net.

It just happened to go in off his skate before he had a chance to.