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Why Lightning was allowed to score after Avalanche’s Kuemper lost his helmet

The Tampa Bay Lightning wasted no time getting on the board in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, with Anthony Cirelli burying a rebound just 36 seconds into the game.

But the most shocking part of the game came just a moment before, when a point shot from Tampa’s Erik Cernak knocked off the mask of Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper.

It’s common to see skaters lose their helmets – and immediately skate to the bench – but goaltenders don’t have the same luxury. For this reason, the NHL has a clear rule on what is legal when a mask pops off.

According to Rule 9.6 (Helmets), “When a goaltender has lost his helmet and/or face mask and… the opposing team has control of the puck, play shall not be stopped until there is no immediate and imminent scoring opportunity.”

The rule also says that if the Avalanche had instead gained control of the puck, the play would have been called dead.

So, for that reason, the Lightning goal counted and the two-time defending champions gained early momentum in Game 4.