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Rule 78.4

Sometimes, we take rules for granted.  Take scoring a goal for example.  A simple matter of the little black disc completely crossing the red line within the goalposts, right?  Not quite.  Rule 78.4 of the NHL Rulebook has this little important wrinkle:

78.4 Scoring a Goal - A goal shall be scored when the puck shall have been put between the goal posts by the stick of a player of the attacking side, from in front and below the crossbar, and entirely across a red line the width of the diameter of the goal posts drawn on the ice from one goal post to the other with the goal frame in its proper position. The goal frame shall be considered in its proper position when the flexible peg(s) are still in contact with both the goal post and the hole in the ice. The flexible pegs could be bent, but as long as they are still making contact with both 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.

And this likely unrenowned part of the rulebook was properly invoked to the chagrin of the hometown Blue Jackets fans.  After taking a giveaway, David Clarkson went for a wraparound. The puck skidded across the crease, unbeknownest to Steve Mason, and John Madden pounded it in as the net disloged.  Don Koharski emphatically called it a goal, a review showed it was a goal, and the fans booed heavily twice for it. Once when Koharski called it a goal, and again at the end of the game as that goal decided the game.  

The Devils grind out a 2-1 win in Columbus, thanks to a proper recollection of the rules by Koharski and the people up in Toronto. For other views from Devils' sites: 2MA live-capped the game and Gulitti has extended reasoning behind the Madden goal and a fun claim from Ken Hitchcock.

I use the term "grind out a win" because a lot of this game wasn't pretty. The first period was more a "feeling each other out" period with plenty of hits, turnovers, and stick checks.  Very defensive, which should be expected as the Blue Jackets and Devils are both in the top ten in the league in shots against per game.  Maybe there was a scoring chance by Columbus, but even that wasn't terribly threatening.

The second period was miles and away different from the first period as the Blue Jackets really got the game going.  They had odd man rushes. They had dangerous shots. They had power plays that the Devils snuffed.  They had solid shifts where they would pin the Devils back. Kristian Huselius started looking real good. New Jersey seemed to wait for an opportunity to present itself to make something happen on offense, but those opportunities were rare at best.  And when they did come, it was of little trouble for Mason.   The Blue Jackets had more "go" in their game and despite a Devils team literally hitting them up all over the ice - and hitting back, Devils led in hits 34-30 and I think that's an honest assessment! It was literally a physically grinding game! Yet, Columbus was undettered.  They finally broke through Kevin Weekes when Manny Malhotra went wide on a rush and caught Weekes with his legs open.  Given that Weekes made some big saves, and went on to make more big saves, that he gave up one right through his legs was unfortunate.  And soft.  You have got to protect that 5-hole! I shouldn't have to emphasize that, yet for the second game in a row, here I am. Emphasizing it.

The top two lines did very little in terms of shots, hustle, and generally "being there" in the first 40 minutes (and they wouldn't go on to have great nights, but Zajac had a moment).  I've noticed Mike Rupp wrecking dudes (6 hits for him) more than, say, Brian Gionta doing much of anything offensively.  Plenty of backchecking, yes, but they didn't turn into counter attacking rushes like we're used to - mostly clearances. The Devils ended the period with out-shot 20-15, down 1-0 on the road with the league's best goalie in net at the other end, and with none of those 15 shots being great strikes, it looked grim.

However, the third period was like a reversal of fortune.  New Jersey started to take advantage of the game a little more often and forced at least a few shifts where the action was by Mason more than Weekes.   After three straight penalty calls in the game, Derek Dorsett got caught tripping and so the Devils went on the power play. A chance to get some offensive momentum!  Only, that didn't happen.  Instead, R.J. Umberger, trying and failing miserably to clear it, gave the puck away to Travis Zajac from the corner.  Mason (and pretty much almost everyone on the ice) was thrown off. Zajac recovered first and slid it in right under Mason's right leg for the equalizer.  The Devils were ecstatic, they built off the goal, and a short time later, the Devils went up thanks to Madden being at the right place at the right time and the goal still sticking around long enough. 

Columbus didn't really start pushing back for an equalizer until about 6 minutes left in the game or so.  And even then, the Devils defense and Weekes became stronger as time went on.  Johnny Oduya made some big plays, including diving to ensure a loose puck didn't fall to a Blue Jacket in the slot, pinching to keep the puck in to ensure Columbus kept Mason in net for a little longer, and a couple of strong clears.  What was great about the last rush or so is that the Devils made a point of it to prevent the Blue Jackets from shooting. According to the NHL play by play, Columbus' last shot on net was with 3:20 remaining.  Up 2-1, on the road, and stopping an increasingly desperate and aggressive opponent from shooting for 3 minutes and 2 seconds is a massive feat.   Elias missing the empty net was deflating,  I really would have liked to have seen the game iced.  But it killed some precious seconds and Oduya helped ensure nothing would happen at the end. And so it ended.

This wasn't an easy win as the opportunities didn't come often for the Devils.  The Blue Jackets organized themselves very well on defense - but they made two crucial errors that they are certainly regretting now. The two glorious giveaways the Devils picked up on offense were turned into goals and that was enough in this game.  Not necessarily fair, as I'd give the edge to Columbus in terms of who looked better overall tonight, but it's not about fair or how you look - it's about what's on the scoreboard.

The forwards for the Devils could have worked a little harder to make more chances happen, to be honest.  This was not a great game for the top two lines, Zajac's goal aside.  But there were plenty of positives.  If you wanted to see the Devils win the physical game, you enjoyed this one.  The Devils' defense stood up well, especially at the end of the game.  Kevin Weekes gave up a big, soft one, but he was solid otherwise and didn't let it get to him.  And the Devils won a hard-fought game on the road. Credit to the Blue Jackets for their effort, but the Devils got the job done.

A little credit should also go to Rule 78.4.