Matt Cooke Goal Disallowed After High-Stick, But It Should Have Counted

Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins thought he pulled his team within one goal of the New York Rangers during the latter stages of the second period at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

The goal was disallowed. Cooke did indeed play the puck with a high stick before it bounced into the net, but following the contact with Cooke's stick, the puck went up in the air, hit Rangers defenseman Michael Sauer, and fell into the back of the net. 

This should have counted, and we'll explain why with the proper NHL rulebook citations.

We'll add the video when it becomes available, but the NHL has cited Rule 80.3 in their explanation on why the goal didn't count. We think they missed something, so let's decipher their reasoning. Rule 80.3: 

When an attacking player causes the puck to enter the opponent's goal by contacting the puck above the height of the crossbar, either directly or deflected off any player or official, the goal shall not be allowed. The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick. If the puck makes contact with the stick below the level of the crossbar and enters the goal, this goal shall be allowed.    

When the puck is played with a high stick and goes in the net, it's not a goal. Seems simple enough, and this portion of the rule is being cited quite a bit tonight in defense of the call by the officials, including by those very officials.

But let's read it a little more closely. The "either directly or deflected off any player or official" part seems to be pretty clear, but is that referring to after the contact with the high stick or before the contact with the high stick? 

Let's move back up to Rule 80.1, which seems to suggest that Rule 80.3 refers to contact before the high stick. 80.1 is very clearly about any contact made after the puck strikes the high stick. Emphasis here is ours. 

When a puck has been contacted by a high stick, the play shall be permitted to continue, provided that:

(i)  the puck has been batted to an opponent (when a player bats the puck to an opponent, the Referee shall give the "washout" signal immediately. Otherwise, he will stop the play).

(ii)  a player of the defending side shall bat the puck into his own goal in which case the goal shall be allowed.

If the defending team, in this case the Rangers, bats the puck into their own goal, the goal should be allowed. It's not contradictory. It just takes a little bit of extra work to decipher, that's all. 

The Situation Room in Toronto is very good, and their blog is just another form of transparency in one of the most transparent sports leagues in North America. That doesn't mean they always get it right. In this case, they got it wrong, and the score of the game should be 4-3 heading in to the third period, not 4-2. 

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