The ending to the fourth game of the series between the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights came with a bang. The final half of the third period was full of extra curricular shenanigans and the entire tone of the game turned scrappy, nasty, and downright dirty. At the centre of attention in the aftermath is Oilers defender Darnell Nurse and Golden Knights defender Alex Pietrangelo.
Both of these players received one game suspensions for their actions. Nurse had an automatic suspension upheld for instigating while Pietrangelo was given his for slashing.
What exactly led to this supplemental discipline? And why are they both so contentious online, as fans of every team have strong opinions on what happened here.
Darnell Nurse’s automatic one-game suspension for instigating
As per the NHL rulebook,
“A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at anytime in overtime (see 46.12), shall be suspended for one game, pending a review of the incident.”
Nurse was given an instigator in the final minutes of game four as he skated deep into the offensive zone to fight Nicolas Hague of the Golden Knights.
The instigator penalty is assessed for certain criteria, which are (according to the NHL rulebook):
Distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.
It took some sleuthing and analysis, but the assumption is that it boils down mostly to the distance travelled and conduct in retaliation to a previous incident. Nurse skated in from the blue line to fight someone behind the opponent’s net, which is not a typical place for a defender to travel to in that situation. And given the previous incident with Pietrangelo and Leon Draisaitl, the fight may be a boiling over of that situation.
Was Nurse’s suspension deserved?
If we follow the letter of the rulebook, technically it was. But is that really the spirit of the instigator rule? Nurse did not start anything, he accepted an offer to fight, something Vegas’ captain Mark Stone said himself. Hague offered the fight first.
Additionally, Nurse did not drop the gloves first. Both players dropped them at about the same time. And, he took the first handful of punches in it. Nurse did not charge in, jump, or otherwise act excessively aggressively towards Hague.
It seems excessive that this instigator penalty was upheld by the Department of Player Safety, as they review it and have the power to rescind it. And it seems likely that this is less a deserved suspension for Nurse and more likely some form of game management to suspend a player from both teams in the aftermath of a game that got out of hand.
Alex Pietrangelo suspended one game for slashing
In the third period of Game 4, Pietrangelo gave Draisaitl a two-handed overhead chop on the hands/wrists. In return, he also received a one-game suspension.
Was Pietrangelo’s suspension enough?
It does not seem that this suspension was nearly enough for the severity of the incident. And it makes one wonder if the length was done to match/even out what was given to Nurse.
This is, quite simply, not a hockey play. It has absolutely no relevance to the play. Pietrangelo goes out of his way long after Draisaitl has gotten rid of the puck to deliver an incredibly excessive and dangerous slash that broke his stick, which is seen breaking shortly after when Connor McDavid engages the Golden Knights defender.
Pietrangelo’s slash was reckless, dangerous, and malicious. Quite frankly, he is lucky he did not get penalized for intent to injure, which would have likely come with a more severe punishment.
Impact on the series
Both players will now miss Friday night’s game five and their absences will have major impacts on the team’s lineups. For the Oilers, they lose a 23 minute per game defender in Nurse, someone who is often relied on as a number one defender. A player who has been thriving in a role slightly less out of the spotlight and who is a huge driver behind the physical side of the game the Oilers can play. His role will be difficult to fill in a crucial road game in a series with back and forth action.
Luckily for the Oilers, they have a second pairing of Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard that can fill big and difficult minutes in Nurse’s absence.
It will also be the prime opportunity for a couple of rookie defenders, Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais, to take a step up and shine in a big moment.
How do the fans feel about these calls? Too much? Not enough? Let us know your feelings!