NHL fans confused as Lightning scores after Avalanche goaltender Kuemper loses mask

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Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores a goal against Darcy Kuemper #35 of the Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Mike Carlson/NHLGetty Images)

It didn’t take long for the Tampa Bay Lightning to enter Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. The Bolts took the lead just 36 seconds away, with the goal causing a stir on social media.

Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli rebounded past Darcy Kuemper, and the goal counted even though the Avalanche goaltender’s mask fell off.

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It’s because, per rule 9.6: “When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or his mask and […] the opposing team has control of the puck, play will only be stopped if there is no immediate and imminent scoring opportunity.”

Kuemper was still wearing his mask when Lightning forward Alex Killorn first shot him. The Avalanche goaltender made an impressive save, but didn’t control the puck. Kuemper’s mask was knocked off the ensuing shot and Cirelli pounced on the rebound. The game is a perfect example of an “immediate and imminent scoring opportunity”.

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However, not everyone is aware of the rule and it didn’t take long for fans to react on social media.

Unlike many fans, the Avalanche coaching staff was clearly aware of the rule and did not dispute it.

The game could have been dangerous and Kuemper already suffered a facial injury earlier in the playoffs. In Game 3 of the first-round series against the Nashville Predators, Ryan Johansen’s stick slipped through the protective bars of Kuemper’s mask and caught him around the eyelid. He missed Game 4 of this series due to the injury.

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It was the second time in his NHL career that a stick blade had inadvertently pushed Kuemper through his mask. It’s understandable that he was worried about continuing to play on the Lightning’s first goal in Game 4.

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