You didn't know it at the time, but when Dustin Byfuglien slashed Jay Beagle late in the third period on Tuesday, he changed the course of the game.
Late in the third period with the Caps leading 3-2, the Winnipeg Jets pulled goalie Connor Hellebuyck for the extra attacker. Jay Beagle broke the puck out of the defensive zone skating around Byfuglien for a 2-on-1 with T.J. Oshie. Byfuglien slashed Beagle twice in desperation, including a vicious two-hander to the ribs.
You can see the replay in the video above. Beagle tried to pass to Oshie, but the pass was off target and just out of Oshie's reach. Byfuglien was issued a two-minute minor, but had ultimately prevented what would have been the clinching empty-net goal.
Sixty-two seconds later, Winnipeg tied the game at 3.
Every situation can affect the outcome of a hockey game which means every situation needs to be officiated properly. Since the Jets scored and ultimately won the game, that raises a few questions as to how the slash was officiated and if any supplemental discipline is warranted.
Should Washington have been awarded an automatic goal?
The NHL accounts for players committing desperation penalties with the goalie pulled. In some specific situations, an automatic goal can be awarded to the team in which the penalty was committed against. The situation on Tuesday, however, does not apply.
According to rule 25.1 of the NHL rulebook.
A goal will be awarded to the attacking team when the opposing team has taken their goalkeeper off the ice and an attacking player has possession and control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone, without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal, and he is prevented from scoring as a result of an infraction committed by the defending team.
Here's a look at the play.
When Beagle broke the puck out of the zone, Byfuglien was in between him and the net. Even as Beagle wheeled around the Jets defenseman, Patrik Laine had quickly retreated in pursuit and forced Beagle further towards the boards. There was never any point when there was not a defending player between Beagle and the net.
Not giving Washington the automatic goal was the correct call.
Did the slash deserve more than a two-minute minor?
Following the game, Barry Trotz argued for a double-minor to Byfuglien.
“I thought we should’ve been on the power play the whole time in overtime,” Trotz said. “I thought the penalty was warranted on the first slash for two minutes. The referee’s arm went up, and the second slash on Beagle, that was not a hockey play. That was not a hockey play. There was no intention of getting the puck or trying to get the puck. He was already by him.”
Byfuglien slashed Beagle twice on the play which Trotz argues should have resulted in a penalty for each. In theory, this is true, but in practice we rarely see a player assessed two separate penalties for the same play, especially for the same penalty. It is essentially a matter of discretion and the referee determined only one penalty was warranted.
But was a minor the right penalty?
According to rule 61.3 which focuses specifically on slashes, "A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who slashes an opponent. When injury occurs, a major penalty must be assessed under this rule."
Beagle was visibly injured when he received the second slash, so much so he struggled to get on the team's bench. For those who argue that Beagle remained on the bench rather than departing for the locker room, keep in mind that the referee must determine immediately if an injury occurred.
Watching the replay, Beagle immediately reacts to the second slash and doubles over in pain when he gets the pass away. The immediate reaction rules out the possibility that Beagle was merely looking for the call. He appears to be genuinely injured on the play.
Having a referee determine the severity of a call based on if an injury occurs is a very difficult position. The call has to be made right away. They do not get to watch the tunnel to see if a player leaves the game or get to change the call based on if the player ever returns. They do not get to monitor Twitter to see if a player's status has been downgraded from questionable to out. In this case, however, the injury is immediately apparent from Beagle's reaction which means Byfuglien should have been assessed a major which carries an automatic game misconduct.
Had Byfuglien received a major, that would have given Washington 3:43 of 4-on-3 power play time in overtime if the Jets still managed to tie the game. While that does not necessarily guarantee the Caps would have won, it certainly would have put them in a much more advantageous position.
MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-JETS
Should Byfuglien receive any supplemental discipline?
UPDATE: Byfuglien was fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for his slash on Beagle, the Department of Player Safety announced Wednesday.
Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for slashing Washington’s Jay Beagle.— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) February 14, 2018
By rule, there are no automatic fines or suspensions for slashing. Any supplementary discipline is at the sole discretion of the DOPS.
It may have been a pretty brutal slash, but it does not appear to rise to the level of a suspension. Beagle had the puck and the slash was an act of desperation, not done with intent to injure. Some Caps fans may disagree, but there's a difference between Byfuglien's slash and, for example, Radko Gudas' slash to Mathieu Perreault.
Having said that, it is not surprising to see a fine assessed. It is not an understatement to say this slash determined the game. It prevented the empty-net goal and allowed Winnipeg the chance to tie the game. The NHL has to make Byfuglien think twice before doing this again. Otherwise, if presented with a similar situation, why wouldn't he make the exact same play?