By: Adam Gretz
Every big hit in the NHL this season, whether it's legal or illegal, is going to be put under an immediate microscope as we try to figure out which ones will result in a suspension and which ones will not.
The NHL, led by Brendan Shanahan, has sent out multiple videos to teams demonstrating hits that will be penalized (or result in suspensions) as well as hits that are considered legal. During the second period of Toronto's crazy 6-5 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf crushed Stephane Da Costa with a booming open ice hit that we're pretty sure fits under the "legal" category.
Senators coach Paul MaClean said after the game that he had no problem with it and considered it to be a clean play, which seems to be the general consensus. The head isn't the primary point of contact, it's not targeted, and Phaneuf doesn't leave his feet. TSN's Darren Dreger, for example, pointed out on Twitter the hit was a "full body hit" which means there will be no issues from the league. So, yes, the NHL is trying to clean up some things, but as this hit shows there's still room for plenty of contact.
Along with Phaneuf's thunderous hit, this game had plenty of craziness, especially during the third period when the Maple Leafs nearly watched a four-goal lead with 10 minutes to play slip away. With the Senators trailing 5-1 and looking completely overmatched for much of the night, they put together a furious rally that saw them cut the deficit to 5-4 in a matter of minutes, thanks in large part to a pair of goals just eight seconds apart.
Two minutes later Phil Kessel answered for Toronto and completed the hat trick when he scored his third goal of the game to put the Leafs back up by two, seemingly ending Ottawa's comeback effort ... until Da Costa scored 25 seconds later to pull the Senators back to within one. That would be as close as they would get.
Kessel's hat trick will be what gets him all of the attention, but he also helped run out the clock in the closing seconds by keeping the puck pinned against the boards on the forecheck behind the Ottawa net, allowing at least 10 crucial seconds to run off.
For the Senators, it's the second game in a row they've put together a strong third period which ultimately proved to be too little, too late. In their first two games this season Ottawa has been outscored 8-0 in the first and second periods, but managed to outscore its opponents 8-3 in the third period.