Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin won't be suspended for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals despite drawing an instigator penalty in the final 19 seconds of a 3-1 loss to Detroit in Game 2 on Sunday night.
Under NHL rules, any player drawing an instigating penalty in the final five minutes is to be suspended for the next game, but the rule allows considerable flexibility depending on the circumstances.
"None of the criteria in this rule applied in this situation," NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said in a statement issued by the league about an hour after the game ended. "Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight. A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident. Neither was the case here and therefore the one game suspension is rescinded."
Malkin fought with the Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg shortly after Penguins forward Max Talbot stuck his stick into goalie Chris Osgood's midsection, with Talbot defending himself later by saying he was poking at the puck. Malkin and Zetterberg both tore their jerseys, but didn't appear to inflict much damage on each other.
"Those two guys weren't even punching each other," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.
Penguins forward Bill Guerin said if Carolina's Scott Walker wasn't suspended for sucker punching Boston's Aaron Ward during the Eastern Conference semifinals, Malkin certainly shouldn't be suspended.
"I've seen a lot worse in these playoffs," Guerin said. "That's just emotion. That happens. A couple of guys like that going at it, there's nothing wrong with that. Two great players going at it, that's fine. ... It's not like a tough guy fighting a star, or a big guy fighting a little guy."
Malkin, who leads playoff scorers with 30 points, scored Pittsburgh's only goal in Game 2. Not known for his physicality, Malkin has shown no reluctance to jump into scrums in the playoffs and, with 41 minutes, is third in penalty minutes.
Malkin had support from the opposing locker room, too.
"It's not that big of a deal," Osgood said. "At the end, he was trying his hardest and everybody got in there and wrestled around. Nobody got hurt."
Although his teammates were certain Malkin would not be suspended, coach Dan Bylsma was concerned immediately after the game, saying, "If he got an instigator in the last five minutes, I think there are rules that are clear. I don't know."
According to NHL rule 47.22: "A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five minutes or at any time in overtime shall be suspended for one game, pending a review of the incident. The director of hockey operations will review every such incident and may rescind the suspension based on a number of criteria. The criteria for the review shall include, but not be limited to, the score, previous incidents, etc. ..."
Following Campbell's review, he determined Malkin should have been assessed a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down during the fight.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.