Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the first period of Monday's Canucks-Kings game, Tom Sestito of Vancouver was assessed a five-minute penalty for fighting, a two-minute penalty for instigating and a 10-minute and game misconduct for repeatedly punching unwilling combatant Jordan Nolan.
I'm a Canucks fan, but I'm disgusted by these one-sided attacks and think it was the right call. Nevertheless, I was surprised that the five-minute penalty was called "fighting," as "fighting" penalties are usually given to both players involved in the fight!
How come the one player fighting major isn't called for other one-sided attacks like the infamous Emery on Holtby incident on Nov. 1? In your response to that debacle you rightly emphasized the importance of referees separating the players quickly, but didn't mention they could assess a five-minute fighting penalty to one player only!
As you pointed out, the correct penalties were assessed to Tom Sestito in his one-sided altercation/attack against Jordan Nolan. Since Nolan was an "unwilling combatant," the onus and responsibility was on Sestito to stop punching the LA King or be subjected to Rule 46.2 as the "aggressor" (the aggressor in an altercation shall be the player who continues to throw punches in an attempt to inflict punishment on his opponent who is in a defenseless position or who is an unwilling combatant).
Tom Sestito's actions clearly qualified him as the aggressor in this altercation. I scored the punch count six direct hits by Sestito to the head area of Nolan. Jordan Nolan, on the other hand, was undeserving of a penalty on the play because he did nothing in response to being continually punched by Sestito; even to the point of keeping his gloves and stick in his hands.
Each player is penalized based on their actions and response during an altercation. The penalties assessed to Tom Sestito became accumulative when Sestito dropped his gloves immediately after an end zone faceoff, travelled the short distance to Jordan Nolan and began unloading punches. Based on the rules, these actions qualified this altercation as a fight and clearly identified Sestito as the instigator (Rule 46.11).
In the November 1 altercation you reference, Ray Emery left his goal crease and charged the length of the ice to fight with Brayden Holtby. The Washington goalkeeper reluctantly dropped his gloves and was forced to defend himself when referee Francois St.-Laurent was unable to intervene and restrain Emery from the deliberate attack. The 'punches' that Holtby threw in self-defense were deserving of a five minute fighting major. Brayden Holtby would not have been assessed a five minute fighting major if he had 'turtled' or failed to respond in the same manner as Jordan Nolan did last night in L.A. As you see, Ryan, it is possible for the referee to assess a fighting major to one player only. If that were the case it would be in addition to the appropriate instigator penalties.
Aside from the additional minor penalty for leaving his goal crease on November 1, Ray Emery received the same penalties that Tom Sestito was assessed in last night's game; two minutes plus a 10-minute misconduct for instigating; five minutes for fighting; and a game-misconduct as the aggressor.
There is no question that Vancouver intended to send the Kings a strong message and push back from their previous meeting of January 4, which sidelined Canucks goalkeeper Roberto Luongo. The fuse was lit! It only took nine seconds before Zack Kassian was penalized for dragging Dustin Brown around with his hockey stick firmly hooked between Brown's legs after chatting the Kings captain up prior to the opening faceoff.
Tom Sestito only lasted a second on his first shift of the game for speed bagging Jordan Nolan who, by the way, should have been penalized for charging Henrik Sedin. A timely penalty call against Nolan would have been a perfect opportunity for the refs to send a message of their own in an effort to establish some control and to bring the temperature down early. It was a 'gift' handed to the men in stripes that was ultimately rejected! It became a constant uphill battle for them from that point in the game.
In the end, it was Dustin Brown that once again did the most damage by scoring the only goal of the game early in the third period for a Kings' win. I don't think the expression "time heals all wounds" will apply when these teams meet next on April 5 in Vancouver. All eyes will be focused on that matchup; including the refs as well.