Rules Breakdown: How Antoine Roussel's Game 2 Goal Was Absolutely Legal

The NHL properly applied it's rules about the net off the moorings and distinct kicking motions in the same call.

Antoine Roussel is a menace in the best way possible.

When he isn't brushing off any extracurriculars or talking about the team cat club, he's scoring game-opening goals in perhaps the most bizarre way possible.

About four minutes into the second period of the Dallas Stars 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild in their first-round playoff series, Roussel attempted to control a puck with his skates. Instead of deflecting to his stick, the puck launched into the air and over the net, hitting the back of the helmet of Devan Dubnyk and settling on his back as he backed up across the goal line, taking the net off the moorings in the process.

The referee initially waived off the goal, but after conferencing with the folks in the NHL's video review room in Toronto, it was turned into the game's first score.

You can see the whole thing here:

So there's obviously a lot to break down here. The first question is why was the goal waived off in the first place, as this is the factor that has to be overcome via conclusive video evidence. There's no good way to know, but the odds are on the fact that the net came off the moorings. The best evidence for that comes from the NHL's official explanation:

Video review determined that the puck crossed the Minnesota goal line in a legal fashion prior to the net being displaced. According to Rule 78.4 "The goal frame shall be considered in its proper position when at least a portion of the flexible peg(s) are still inside both the goal post and the hole in the ice".

So let's start with Rule 78 first before we get to kicking motions, plus Rule 63 for good measure.

Rule 78.4 states in part, with the most relevant part bolded by me: "The goal frame shall be considered in its proper position when at least a portion of the flexible peg(s) are still inside both the goal post and the hole in the ice. The flexible pegs could be bent, but as long as at least a portion of the flexible peg(s) are still in the hole in the ice and the goal post, the goal frame shall be deemed to be in its proper position. The goal frame could be raised somewhat on one post (or both), but as long as the flexible pegs are still in contact with the holes in the ice and the goal posts, the goal frame shall not be deemed to be displaced."

That's pretty darn clear. Even if the goal is raised somewhat by Dubnyk backing into the net, the net doesn't come completely off of its pegs until the puck is deemed to have crossed the goal line.

And even if it had, the goal still probably would have counted via rule 63.6, which the Stars saw earlier this year on a goal by Patrick Sharp.

Here is Rule 63.6:

In the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goalposts, the Referee may award a goal.

In order to award a goal in this situation, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions of a defending player, the puck must have been shot (or the player must be in the act of shooting) at the goal prior to the goal post being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts.

Dubnyk very clearly displaces the goal by himself, and the puck is well off of Roussel's stick. The puck would have continued to go down Dubnyk's back (so below the crossbar and between the posts), and by the Mike Smith butt-goal standard, absolutely counted even though the goalie essentially carried it in. So by both of these rules, the puck completely crosses the goal line with the net in a position where a goal would be awarded.

Now onto that kicking motion thing. Here is the relevant rule, Rule 49.2:

Kicking the puck shall be permitted in all zones. A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net with his skate/foot. A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who kicks a puck that deflects into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official.

A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player’s skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal. A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate shall be a legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident.

First of all, trust me that nothing else the NHL ever published has really laid out what exactly a distinct kicking motion is. Anecdotally, the following standards are usually what you can count on:

  • Did the kicking motion in question add momentum that took the puck toward the net with an appreciably different speed and angle AND
  • Did the kicking motion in question involve the skate blade coming off of the ice?/

That last part is generally where you can tell whether or not a goal will come back, and it gets back to the purpose of the rule itself.

The kicking rule is, at its heart, a safety consideration for the goalies. Players are desperate enough around the net as it is - if you allowed them to soccer-style kick at the puck with the goalie reaching around with his glove, any number of awful skate cuts would occur. When the skate says on the ice, however, this isn't a problem, and the NHL seems to use this standard with as much consistency that it applies to anything else.

Here's an example of the type of skate lift that usually results in a no goal:

And here is a goal that was allowed to stand:

The obvious difference in these goals is foot (particularly the toe of the skate) coming off the ice. And the Morrow goal happened before the NHL tightened the standard needed to overturn a called goal/uphold a no goal for a kick in the 2014-15 offseason.

In Roussel's case, as he makes contact with the puck, the blade of his skate stays flat on the ice. I present the photograph evidence if you're not interested in pausing the replay at the strategic second:

Notice the blade flat to the ice at all time.

No matter his intention was in this case (which he has said was to move the puck to his stick), the NHL does not consider that a distinct kicking motion. Beyond the fact that the force provided by the skate is in the direction parallel to the net rather than toward it, the skate clearly never comes off the ice. This does not rise to the NHL's level to take away a goal.

It's definitely a weird goal and one that will make goalies crazy, Dubnyk is going to ask what he was supposed to do on this one, and the NHL is one day going to be forced to actually define what constitutes a distinct kicking motion with more clarity.

But by the letter (and spirit) of all three rules in play, this was correctly called a good goal.