The NHL can be a cruel, unforgiving place. Such was the case on Sunday night, when Columbus Blue Jackets rookie defenseman Zach Werenski was busted open by a puck to the face, play continued and the Pittsburgh Penguins scored to tie Game 3 of their Metro Division semifinal.
Werenski was in front of Phil Kessel when the Penguins forward snapped the puck under his visor. The defenseman grabbed his face with his left glove and fell to the ice in agony.
Play continued. Kessel found Evgeni Malkin to the left of Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who then sent a pass across to forward Bryan Rust, who couldn’t handle it. Malkin had a second chance on the same play moments later, and Rust scored his second goal of the game with 6:35 left in the second period.
Now, back to the NHL being a cruel and unforgiving place: Rule 8.1 stipulates that “when a player is injured so that he cannot continue play or go to his bench, the play shall not be stopped until the injured player’s team has secured control of the puck. If the player’s team is in control of the puck at the time of the injury, play shall be stopped immediately unless his team is in a scoring position.”
As you can see, the Blue Jackets never secured control of the puck.
(As a New Jersey Devils fan, this rule is dear to my heart, as play continued in a Stanley Cup Final game in Detroit in 1995 after Paul Coffey was injured, and Jim Dowd scored the game-winning goal in Game 2.)
Now, there is a wrinkle here: Rule 8.1 also states:
“In the case where it is obvious that a player has sustained a serious injury, the Referee and/or Linesman may stop the play immediately.”
Was Werenski being down, bleeding on the ice, an incident that reached that standard? Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch asked the NHL’s director of officiating on site:
#NHL on-site officiating supervisor Don Koharski refuses to say if correct call was made by play continuing with Werenski down, bleeding.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) April 17, 2017
The officials probably got this one right, even if the rule book creates a little gray area. Werenski was able to get to his skates and head to the bench, so that gives the officials some cover here.
Werenski was able to return to the game, albeit with a face shield and a little battle damage.
In other words:
Werenski looks like he just got off a @united flight.
— Bill Crawford (@dveBillCrawford) April 17, 2017
Obviously, the best news is that a puck under his face-shield didn’t result in something catastrophic. Although Werenski didn’t skate at the start of overtime, perhaps due to the swelling.
UPDATE: Here’s the aftermath, after the Jackets’ OT loss to Pittsburgh.
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