NHL fans confused as Lightning score after Avalanche goalie 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)
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 get on the board in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. The Bolts took the lead just 36 seconds, with the goal causing a stir on social media.

Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli put a rebound home past Darcy Kuemper, and the goal counted even though the Avalanche goalie's mask had fallen off.

That’s because, according to Rule 9.6: "When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask and […] the opposing team has control of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity."

Kuemper still had his mask on when Lightning forward Alex Killorn first shot at him. The Avalanche netminder made an impressive save, but did not control the puck. Kuemper's mask got knocked off by the ensuing shot and Cirelli pounced on the rebound. The play is a perfect example of an “immediate and impending scoring opportunity.”

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 well aware of the rule and did not challenge.

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

It was the second time in his NHL career an inadvertent stick blade had poked Kuemper through his mask. It is understandable that he was worried about continuing play on the Lightning’s first goal of Game 4.

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