Here’s How To Score On The Power Play Without Taking A Single Shot

What Sophocles had forgotten is that the Sphinx actually asked two riddles, and while the first was the classic four legs, two legs, three legs business, the second went, “How did Lawson Crouse score a power play goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins when he wasn’t even on the ice at the time the goal was scored, and the Arizona Coyotes didn’t record a single power play shot on goal for the entire game?”

And then Oedipus said, “On a delayed penalty, 69-percent chance future Hall-of-Famer (according to HFboards) Kris Letang passed backwards to definite Hall-of-Famer Evgeni Malkin, and, in the face of gentle pressure from future Coyotes captain Clayton Keller, Malkin fumbled handling the puck, thus allowing it to reach the back of the net. Lawson Crouse was credited with the goal by virtue of being the last Coyote to touch the puck. Such is the only possible answer, so obvious as to be trivial.”

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OK, some context. One minute and 12 seconds before this play occurred, Jansen Harkins took a two-minute minor, giving the Coyotes a power play opportunity. This power play opportunity was not, by traditional terms, going well, as Pittsburgh won the face-off and the Coyotes failed to achieve a single shot on goal before Jason Zucker took a delayed two-minute penalty, 40 seconds into the power play.

Conventional wisdom states that if there is a a delayed penalty, the team who would be going on the power play should pull the goalie—there is no downside, as the whistle will blow as soon as the offending team gets a stick on the puck, or so you would think—and get an extra skater on the ice, essentially buying more power play time, as the two-minute timer doesn’t start until the offending team gets a stick on the puck or a stoppage of play. So at the time of the goal, the Coyotes had five skaters and a goalie on the ice, and the Penguins had five skaters and an empty net, one of them Evgeni Malkin, and another one of them Kris Letang, who was committed to delaying as long as possible.

Scoring an own goal during a delayed penalty isn’t a unique feat—it’s happened often enough that there are nine-minute-long video compilations out there—so such blatant own goals on an empty net, while extremely humiliating one-offs, are often best faced with saying, “These things, they happen.” This is not one of those situations because Letang’s decision-making was so deeply suspect, no matter what conventional wisdom states. Why are the Penguins—who rank second-to-last in power play percentage, just above the Chicago Blackhawks and just under the, uh, Philadelphia Flyers, and thus exist in the rarified circle of “teams for whom power plays look like an active detriment to their performance”—actively trying to buy themselves even more power play time? Do they believe that they can exceed their means, that such an abysmal power play percentage is surely as much bad luck as it is lack of skill? Such is the hubris of man.

The Penguins did create some history with this play. Now the Arizona Coyotes are the first team in NHL history to score a power play goal without recording a single power play shot in the entire game. That’s a clean #DIV/0! shooting percentage on the power play—a far better mark than whatever the Pittsburgh Penguins have going on this year. What can you even say? These things, they happen.

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