ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) – Henrik Lundqvist was flipping mad that referee Trevor Hanson wouldn’t blow his whistle to stop play. Run over by teammate Ryan McDonagh seconds earlier, the injured New York Rangers goaltender took the situation into his own hands and flipped the net over to get a stoppage.
Lundqvist was called for a delay of game penalty, gave up three goals to the Pittsburgh Penguins later in the period and left the game at intermission with neck spasms.
The outburst has current and former goalies around the NHL buzzing.
Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins called it “baby stuff,” according to the team website. Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals disagreed, saying Lundqvist shouldn’t be criticized one bit.
“I think he did the right thing,” Holtby said Friday. “I thought it was absurd he got penalized for it. You get hit in the head as a goalie, you can’t skate to the bench for a line change. If you’re seeing stars, you can’t see the puck. You have no other option. It was the wrong call, and I felt bad for him.”
The NHL rulebook says “deliberately displacing a goal post from its normal position” is a minor penalty. Lundqvist is certainly not the first goalie who has tried to stop play and gotten punished for it. Just a few months ago, Alex Stalock, then of the San Jose Sharks, pulled his mask off during a game and officials let the play go on, allowing a goal to count.
Former NHL goalie Martin Biron, who was a teammate of Lundqvist’s, said it was “a little bit on the excessive part” that “The King” flipped the net over.
“We see it every day with guys blocking shots that they’re hopping on one foot and still killing a penalty or they have a tough time going back to the bench, but they battled through because that’s what’s expected,” Biron said. “I don’t think that, as a goalie, you have to be given more of a favor or a different treatment.”
Biron said goalies before his time “were getting pretty smart” at strategically forcing whistles. He said if an injury is bad enough, a goalie should stay down on the ice as a signal, like Brian Boucher of the Philadelphia Flyers did in the 2010 playoffs when a teammate fell on him and caused injuries to both knees.
Holtby said goalies rely on officials for help in those situations, especially considering their masks aren’t built for collisions like the one Lundqvist had with McDonagh.
“Most people know when you get hit like that, you don’t really feel it until a few seconds after,” Holtby said. “His first instinct was to get back in the play, so he couldn’t really stay down and you can’t go for a line change.”
Fleury said he wouldn’t have knocked the net off like Lundqvist “because that’s a penalty and that’s illegal.” He and the Penguins were just happy they got a power play.
Flyers goaltender Steve Mason said the referee should have blown the whistle because it could have been a more serious injury than it appeared. He said he probably would have tried to grind it out but couldn’t say for sure because he didn’t know how bad Lundqvist was feeling.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault didn’t know Lundqvist was injured at the time and said after the game it wasn’t serious. Still, the team called up goalie Magnus Hellberg in advance of their game Friday night against the Capitals.
Biron said the officials were in a no-win situation when judging how to handle the play.
“You can’t take away offense or scoring chances,” Biron said, “and if you are capable of flipping a goal net over the way that he did, he can stand in the way of a puck at any moment.”