NSH-MIN

About that controversial OT faceoff penalty from the Minnesota-Nashville game…

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One of the stranger calls of this young NHL season occurred during overtime of Minnesota’s 2-1 victory over Nashville on Saturday.

About halfway through the extra session, Preds center Paul Gaustad was given a two-minute delay of game/faceoff violation minor for “batting” the puck with his glove.

This, of course, is a direct violation of one of the new faceoff rules for this season — No. 76.4, which prohibits players from playing the puck with their hands.

The Wild proceeded to score (and win) on the ensuing power play, much to the chagrin of the Predators, who protested the call vehemently.

The protestations were based partly on the puck drop of linesman Ryan Galloway — here’s a GIF of the incident, courtesy the Nashville Examiner:

Hardly a textbook draw, given the bounce (though it’s not like he Gronkowski’d the puck.) The bigger issue was the subsequent penalty call, which seemed harsh given the game was in overtime.

Following the contest, The Tennessean asked the NHL’s Situation Room for clarification on the call, which garnered this response:

The referee deemed that rule 76.4 applied because as it reads “Both players facing-off are prohibited from batting the puck with their hand in an attempt to win the face-off.”

That rule applied because the puck was batted by Paul Gaustad’s left glove off the face off.

Now, former NHL referee Kerry Fraser has weighed in on the call:

Even though I have attempted to provide a reasonable explanation as to why the linesman felt Gaustad’s actions resulted in a hand pass, I do not believe this interpretation to be correct. 

In observance of the spirit and intent of Rule 76.4, I deem that incidental contact of the puck resulted to the back of Gaustad’s glove from his natural hand motion in an attempt to win the draw and that a face-off violation did not occur on this play.

There was no deliberate attempt by the Nashville center to play the puck with his hand.

Fraser then explains the best course of action would’ve been for to blow the play dead, reset the clock and re-do the faceoff.

Issues with the new faceoff rules are popping up throughout the league. In Washington, players told NBC Channel 4 they’ve had a hard time adjusting to the new regulations.

Matt Hendricks said he’s noticed referees are calling faceoff penalties “pretty strongly” this season, while Jay Beagle said he was lucky to avoid getting called for one earlier this season.

“There was one instance, I actually tried to grab it and swing it back with my hand and missed,” he explained. “I was thankful for that.

“After that, I was like, ‘Gee, I gotta watch it.'”

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.