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NHL to enforce video review for major penalties starting in 2019-20 season

Had this been the case in Game 7, it might have been a different outcome for the Golden Knights.

Vegas Golden Knights v San Jose Sharks - Game Seven Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

NHL referees will be required to conduct a video review on all major penalty calls beginning in the 2019-20 season, the league announced Thursday.

The ruling, one of numerous rule changes to be enacted for next season, comes nearly two months to the day when Vegas Golden Knights center Cody Eakin was assessed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for cross-checking San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round series at SAP Center.

Vegas led 3-0 on April 23 when Eakin was called for the penalty at 9:13 of the third period. The Sharks scored four unanswered goals in the following 4:01. San Jose ultimately won 5-4 in overtime and ended the Golden Knights’ season.

“I went into the box. I didn’t really know what happened,” Eakin said at locker clean-out day on April 25. “I thought they reviewed it, and I was coming out of the box and they weren’t going to call a penalty, but then they said to get off the ice. That’s pretty much all that was said.”

Under the new rule, major penalties can be reviewed but only the severity can be changed. In Eakin’s case, if the penalty was reviewable and the call was reversed, Eakin would serve a two-minute minor penalty. The call is both independent (cannot be discussed with the Situation Room) and cannot be rescinded.

In the aftermath of that game, Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault told reporters that the officials’ explanation for sending Eakin off and forcing Vegas to play the rest of the game with 11 forwards was that “it looked bad.” Pavelski was bleeding from the back of his head and sustained a concussion. He did not return to the Sharks’ lineup until Game 7 of their second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche.

Pavelski even said that the Eakin penalty should not have been called as a major.

“I got no issues with that play,” he said. “Was it a five-minute major? No. I don’t think it was. Am I glad they called it that way? Heck yeah.”

The Sharks went on to lose in six games to the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final. San Jose took a 2-1 series lead with a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 3, but not without more controversy. Sharks forward Timo Meier committed a handpass that led to Erik Karlsson’s game-winning goal, but it wasn’t called. While the NHL admitted it was a blown call, the league confirmed that it was a non-reviewable play.

That will not be the case next season. The NHL announced, in accordance with coach’s challenges for offsides and goalie interference, that plays that should’ve resulted in a stoppage of play in the offensive zone can be challenged. That includes Meier’s handpass.

Here are the rest of the rules that will go into effect next season:

  • There is no longer a limit to coach’s challenges. However, there will be “escalated consequences” for losing them. Teams will be assessed a minor penalty for delay of game on a first unsuccessful challenge, and a double-minor for each additional failed challenge.
  • Referees will also be able to review high-sticking penalties and determine if their call on the ice was correct, and if the penalty was caused injury. The official’s reviews on high-stick/double-minor calls will be independently reviewed without the consent of the NHL Situation Room. It’s also not mandatory for the referee to review such a call.
  • If a player loses his helmet during live action, he must leave the ice immediately or “retrieve and replace” the helmet. That player will be allowed to make a play on the puck in a “reasonable amount of time” before exiting. Teams can be assessed a minor penalty if the player doesn’t comply. Minor penalties will also be assessed for roughing should a player remove another’s helmet during play.
  • Teams in the defensive zone will not be allowed a line change should a goalie freeze the puck from center ice, nor will that team get a line change should they unintentionally knock the net off its rings. The offensive team can also choose which dot to take the faceoff from.
  • Speaking of choosing which dot to take the faceoff from, teams can also choose that after icing and at the beginning of a power play.
  • If a goal post is displaced during a breakaway, the non-offending team will be given the goal.
  • If a puck goes out of play in the attacking zone, by way of the attacking team in all instances, the ensuing faceoff will take place at either dot in the zone.