Normally, I leave any New Jersey Devils game commentary either in Tweets, comments in the Gamethread, or I leave it for the recap. However, the December 8, 2016 road game against the Montreal Canadiens featured an incident that warrants immediate statement. Or, rather, a question: How was Carey Price allowed to stay in the game?
In the final minute in the first period, Kyle Palmieri drove into and past the Montreal defense. With Jeff Petry behind him, Palmieri pulled a move to drive the puck to the crease. Palmieri lost an edge and, with a little help from Petry, fell into Price.
And Price responded with violence.
Just chill out, man. #NJDvsMTL pic.twitter.com/xrGSlkmjQT— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) December 9, 2016
Palmieri was down on the ice, he was defenseless, and Price threw at least three punches with his blocker. After the first shot, Petry held him down with his stick and tried to drag him towards the middle - which only made it easier for Price to hit him. A melee ensued.
The result of all of this was two minutes for Palmieri for goaltender interference and two roughing minors on Price. The Devils did get a power play out of the game. However, the Devils coaches were irate, as were many Devils fans. That was it for punches at a player down on the ice? Not even an instigator as Price’s violent actions led to a massive melee at the Montreal net?
Truth be told, Price should have been sent out of the game. According to Rule 51.3 of the NHL Rulebook (link goes to PDF):
51.3 Match Penalty - If, in the judgment of the Referee, a goalkeeper uses his blocking glove to punch an opponent in the head or face in an attempt to or to deliberately injure an opponent, a match penalty must be assessed.
The very first punch by Price hits Palmieri in the back of his helmet. And there was a referee right behind the net, who circled around to the front of the net after the first punch and proceeded to watch until a linesman entered the scene. It was a dangerous move and based on what was shown in the broadcast, Price should have been assessed a match penalty.
I’m curious if there will be any post-game discipline for Price. There should be. For all of the talk, writing, and bluster about player safety, shots being taken at a defenseless player on the ice should not be tolerated. Much less a defenseless player pinned down by the puncher’s teammate. I’m admittedly not expecting anything because this is the National Hockey League, they are the Montreal Canadiens, and Carey Price is who he is.
How was he able to play after taking shots at a fallen Palmieri? If only referees Garrett Rank and Kelly Sutherland could answer that. We will likely not know.
Postscripts: First, I want to give a shoutout for the MSG+2 broadcast. They cited Rule 51.3 in the first intermission, which drove me to write this post.
Second, Jeff Veillette showed on Twitter that Petry did shove Palmieri into Price:
Palmeri is trying to tuck his drive into forehand before Petry shoves him. His skates buckle as he collides, hence backwards @Cpt_Handsome pic.twitter.com/zVnC2FInoq— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) December 9, 2016
One can understand Price being mad at Palmieri for coming at him, but it wasn’t as if Palmieri turned into a certain Ranger and wanted to take him out.