You saw, I saw it, we all saw it. The referees did not, or did they?
As NY Islanders fans and hockey fans around the NHL watched the replay of defenseman Scott Mayfield being hit in the face by a flailing Jordan Martinook stick, there appeared to be universal agreement (at least on social media) that the referees had blown a call that tipped the game in favor of the Carolina Hurricanes when Jesper Fast scored moments later in overtime to lift the Canes to a 4-3 win and a 2-0 series lead as we head to Long Island for Game 3 on Friday night.
But then there was NHL Analyst Mike Rupp, a former 1st round pick of the Islanders in 1998 by GM Mike Millbury, who never signed and later won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003.
Rupp argued during a video analysis posted on Twitter that Mayfield popped Martinook's stick which caused it from its original lower position to above the shoulder, resulting in the blade of the stick hitting Mayfield's face and causing him to go down. "You're this linesman right here; you can't make that call. You're not making that call in overtime when you saw the player pop the stick. I just don't think you can call that," argued the former power forward.
The interpretation of many when reading the NHL Rule counters Rupp's case. In the rule book it states that a player "must be in control and responsible for their stick." Yes, it does allow for exceptions for accidental contact, but those are only in cases where "the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion, or accidental on the opposing center who is bent over during the course of a face-off"
None of the elements for the referee to call this a penalty were there, and if your argument is discretion because it's overtime and it's away from puck possession in a game where the Islanders did not earn a power play for the first time ever in their postseason history, well, that's a bit much for Isles fans to take at the moment.
Rupp's NHL Network colleague, Mike Johnson, saw it differently as well. "Respectfully disagree, you have to be in control of your own stick, even if opponent lifts it, Johnson stated on Twitter. "Don’t think there is any accommodation in rule book for a stick “lifted by opponent” not being a penalty. And I don’t care what time of game, if it’s a penalty, call the penalty."
Mayfield did not meet with the media after the game because he was receiving medical attention from the team's staff. During the post-game, head coach Lane Lambert said he did not receive an explanation from the referees as to why the high stick wasn't called.