NHL Rule 46.12 states that an instigating minor assessed in the final five minutes of regulation or at any point during overtime is met with a game misconduct and automatic one-game suspension.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Craig Adams has been suspended for one game and Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma has been fined $10,000 for Adams’ actions in the final five minutes of Sunday’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinal playoff game against the Flyers in Philadelphia, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.
Adams instigated a fight at 15:18 of the third period. He was assessed a minor penalty for instigating, a major penalty for fighting and a game misconduct.
The fine money goes to the NHL Foundation.
Such suspensions have been rescinded by the league in the past, such as Evgeni Malkin's instigator in the final minutes of a game two loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.
As per the rule, head coach Dan Bylsma has also been fined $10,000 by the league for Adams' role in the fracas.
Who deserves the most severe discipline?
Instigator penalties are generally assessed when a player is the third man in during a scrum or fight or when a player enters or initiates a fight after the 15:00 mark in a game's final frame.
Adams became entangled with Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell during a late-game scrum. The Flyers had turned their attention to James Neal after Neal had gotten away with a charge on Sean Couturier.
Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby tied up with Hartnell as he gravitated towards a skirmish centering on Neal, and Adams grabbed away Hartnell while Crosby became tied up with Claude Giroux for the second time in the game.
The Penguins shouldn't be expected to appeal the decision. Rather, they need to turn their attention to filling out the quarter of their forward roster that is likely to be unavailable for Wednesday's game four.
Arron Asham, low-hanging disciplinary fruit that he is, can expect to receive the postseason's heftiest plate of supplemental discipline. Asham has already undermined the organization's loudly-held stance on goonism and cheap play by taunting Jay Beagle after a fight in October.
Given the likelihood that Asham will be bounced for the balance of the postseason and that he is on an expiring one-year contract, it's no stretch to imagine his hits at the expense of Brayden Schenn will be his last acts in a Penguins uniform.
Asham will hold an in-person hearing with the league Tuesday. Most hearings are conducted over the phone. In-person meetings usually precede a suspension of five or more games.
Neal, too, should at least be wary of supplemental discipline. Neal was involved with the aforementioned charge on Couturier, and after inexplicably being put out on the next shift laid a questionable hit on Giroux.
That Dan Bylsma even had the option of putting Neal back out on the next shift is failure on the part of the referees to control what was clearly becoming a gong show.
Neal was finally handed a game misconduct for his role in the fights that followed. It's possible the Adams and Crosby tie-ups don't happen if Neal is penalized the first time, a fault that lies at the feet of Bylsma and the officials.
Neal will hold a pair of disciplinary hearings with the league Tuesday, one for each incident, though both his hearings will be held over the phone.
Anything can happen, really. The NHL disciplinary office is the only group of folks more disjointed and unhinged than the Penguins this postseason.
Given that repeated blows to an unwilling combatant earn only one-game suspensions and showing your teammates how great you are at Wrestlemania earns the relative equivalent of a bounced check fee, Neal's best bet is to hope his new $30 million contract earns him the star status needed to limbo beneath the reach of Brendan Shanahan's office.
If that's the case, the Penguins may want to follow their own model and hold players accountable in-house. They did so in sharply reducing their fighting majors following last year's Islanders brawl and in putting an ultimatum on Matt Cooke's career following his 17-game suspension.
At this point, saving the season starts with saving face.