Well, this won't sit well with Detroit Red Wings fans who watched Evgeni Malkin(notes) take an instigator penalty at the end of Game 2, earning an automatic suspension: Turns out that, yet again, nothing is automatic in the NHL.
From the NHL, which investigated this incident in record time:
National Hockey League Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell issued the following statement regarding the instigator penalty assessed to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin at 19:41 of the third period of tonight's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final:
Rule 47.22 states: "A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five minutes or at any time in overtime shall be suspended for one game, pending a review of the incident. The director of hockey operations will review every such incident and may rescind the suspension based on a number of criteria. The criteria for the review shall include, but not be limited to, the score, previous incidents, etc..."
Following that review, Campbell said: "None of the criteria in this rule applied in this situation. Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight. A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident. Neither was the case here and therefore the one game suspension is rescinded."
NHL Hockey Operations also determined that Malkin should have been assessed a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down.
The incident in question:
There's no question Malkin instigated a fight with Henrik Zetterberg(notes), even if Chris Osgood's(notes) flop sparked the melee. And there's no question the NHL should drop this joke of a rule after Scott Walker and now Malkin have seen "automatic" suspensions for late-game shenanigans rescinded. It's clearly a meaningless deterrent.
More on the Wings' 3-1 Game 2 win ...
As is often the case with a dominant defensive team, we've reached the point in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals in which futility meets supremacy; where the as-yet-unmet expectations placed on star offensive players lead us to believe they're underperforming, which inevitably shortchanges the achievements of their opponents.
Sidney Crosby(notes) and Evgeni Malkin are being swarmed by red sweaters when they touch the puck. Crosby's had to deal with the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) and Brian Rafalski(notes); Malkin with Brad Stuart(notes) and Nicklas Kronwall. Malkin got credit for a goal knocked in by a Detroit defenseman; Crosby was silent for most of the game. Cliché as it is to focus on the foibles of superstars in a series like this, their taming is as significant in the first two games as their leadership was in the first three rounds.
Detroit allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins one good stretch when the forecheck and cycling were rolling in the zone: The second 10 minutes of the first period, and the second period leading up to the Valtteri Filppula(notes) goal. Detroit smothered them in the third in classic Red Wings style, which is to say the ratings on NBC probably tanked as we reached the 10 o'clock hour.
Coach Dan Bylsma said before the game that he wasn't necessarily looking for a win, but looking for an effort that would earn a win. He saw it in spurts on Sunday, but he didn't seen nearly enough of it. The Red Wings wore the Penguins down. So much for the whiners about how the NHL's schedule-makers were sabotaging Detroit's Cup chances.
Random thoughts ...
Afro Gator Apple Grater Applicator Abdelkader has scored two goals in two games, and both of them look like he's a weekend duffer taking a hack on the driving range. You can kill Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) for the third goal tonight, but that thing looked like a whiffle ball.
• Finally, the slashing call that wasn't on Marian Hossa(notes), when he broke Pascal Dupuis's(notes) stick, was a notable non-call if only because it's something that's been consistently whistled all postseason. But hey, if automatic suspensions aren't automatic ...
UPDATE: As we covered in Monday's afternoon Puck Headlines, a better angle of the slash was featured on CBC Sports and clearly shows Dupuis's stick breaking after contact with Hossa's skate. It was a phantom call, and we're as guilty as the knuckleheads on NBC for falling for it.