Playoff physicality creeps into crease to impact goaltenders

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New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) collides with Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith (1) in the third period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in New York. Goalie interference was called on the play. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

The physicality of the NHL playoffs is creeping into the crease.

There has already been a huge goal disallowed due to goaltender interference, a starting goalie was knocked out of a game after taking a shot to the head and one rookie netminder confronted an opposing star forward over unwanted contact.

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“I think definitely when the puck's there and you're trying to score goals, guys are going to the net, that's how you score goals," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said Thursday. "There's going to be that. I'm assuming you're going to see more of that kind of stuff.

"It's the other stuff that you're probably trying to not have in the game — the extra stuff with the contact with the goalies. But it's playoff hockey and there's a lot of emotion and certainly a lot of physical element to it.”

Players generally aren’t allowed to make contact with a goaltender, particularly as the goaltender attempts to move within the crease to stop a puck in play. That can lead to officials calling goaltender interference, which can result in a 2-minute minor penalty or a disallowed goal.

Still, there's a degree of subjectivity when it comes to deciding deciding what is permitted as “incidental” and how much contact is too much.

Throw in the fact that offenses are rolling with aggressive play — especially when it comes to getting traffic in front of the net for “dirty” goals like deflections or rebounds — and it's easy to see why goaltenders are being bumped and jostled.

Brind'Amour has seen it up close entering Friday's trip to Boston. Already down No. 1 goaltender Frederik Andersen due to injury, the Hurricanes lost starter Antti Raanta in the first period of Wednesday's Game 2 win after the Bruins' David Pastrnak struck him in the head with a gloved hand.

Rookie Pyotr Kochetkov came on and had 30 saves, though he ended up in a brief confrontation after Brad Marchand crosschecked him from behind as he kept the puck in play.

The goaltender objected with a jab of his stick, then his own shove after the play. Marchand responded by swinging his stick to hit Kochetkov as both ended up drawing penalties.

Brind’Amour said it “can’t get any more obvious” the Bruins are targeting his goaltenders. The NHL fined Marchand $5,000 on Thursday for the slash.

The issue emerged in a critical moment during the Pittsburgh-New York Rangers series opener, too.

Tied late in the third period, the Rangers' Kaapo Kakko collided with Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith — while being pushed by defenseman Brian Dumoulin — with enough force to knock DeSmith fully outside the crease. Kakko sent the puck to Filip Chytil for the easy finish, though the goal was overturned upon review for interference.

The Penguins went on to win in triple overtime, led by backup goaltender Louis Domingue taking over for an injured DeSmith in the second OT.

“It feels like goaltender interference this year has been a big question mark," Minnesota Wild right wing Marcus Foligno said. “We’ve just got to make sure we take any of that gray area away by just doing our job and making sure we’re not in the crease and that blue-paint area."

HURRICANES at BRUINS, Carolina leads series 2-0 (7 p.m. EDT, TNT)

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Thursday the team won't have defenseman Hampus Lindholm. He was knocked from Wednesday's game in the second period on Andrei Svechnikov's jarring shoulder-to-chest blast, which left him wobbly as he was helped to the locker room.

Additionally, Cassidy plans to give goaltender Jeremy Swayman his first postseason start after Linus Ullmark allowed four goals in each of the Game 1 and 2 losses.

MAPLE LEAFS at LIGHTNING, series tied 1-1 (7:30 p.m. EDT, TBS)

The two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Lightning won Game 2 to improve to 16-0 in outings following a playoff loss over the past three postseasons.

Now it's Toronto's time to respond.

“When our team has been challenged, we’ve responded very well. So, we know what we’re in for now,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said Thursday.

Tampa Bay, which has won eight consecutive playoff series, hasn’t lost back-to-back postseason games since being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 opening round.

“We knew it was going to be a long, tough series,” Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn said. “You want to remain even keel throughout a series. I think that comes with, obviously, our experience.’’

WILD at BLUES, series tied 1-1 (9:30 p.m. EDT, TNT)

The Blues return home dealing with some defensive discomfort.

Robert Bortuzzo took a puck to the face and departed the Game 2 loss in the first period. Nick Leddy was held out of Game 2 with an upper-body injury he suffered and played through in Game 1. Marco Scandella has yet to play with a lower-body injury.

Coach Craig Berube said Thursday he didn’t have an update on any of the injured defensemen, though he indicated Bortuzzo dodged a more serious outcome.

“Real tough play. Glad he came out of it all right. Not too hurt, you know what I mean? That could have been dangerous,” Berube said.

The Wild will try to win in St. Louis for the first time since Nov. 11, 2018.

OILERS at KINGS, series tied 1-1 (10 p.m. EDT, TBS)

Edmonton has the clear edge on the power play so far. The Oilers are 4 of 8 through two games, scoring a pair of goals with the man advantage in each.

By comparison, the Kings have come up empty on all eight of their power plays through two games. And going back into the regular season, Los Angeles has converted on 3 of 36 power plays (8.3%) in its last 12 games.


AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Minneapolis and Fred Goodall in Tampa, Florida; contributed to this report.


Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at


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