NHL says it will address third goalie question

After both his goalies went down to injury, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant thought he'd have to play goalie coach Robb Tallas. Luckily, Luongo returned after pleading his case.

TORONTO — Bill Daly figured it was bound to happen eventually.

As unlikely as it seemed when the Florida Panthers lost both of their goalies to injury during Tuesday’s game against Toronto, the NHL’s deputy commissioner revealed Wednesday that the league recently held talks about altering the protocol governing such situations.

Those discussions took place when the general managers met in November. Daly said there’s “no doubt” the topic will be revisited when the GMs gather again in Boca Raton, Fla., later this month.

“(In November) we floated a number of ideas on how to kind of deal with that issue because we knew what happened last night was going to ultimately happen,” said Daly. “And it’s likely to happen again. It’s definitely an issue that needs a collective focus from our managers and the league in terms of how to deal with it.”

Even though no NHL team has used three goalies in a single game since the 1995 playoffs, Daly noted that a number have faced situations where they had to put an extra one on call.

Washington, Minnesota and Anaheim are among those that have seen it happen in recent seasons. The way rule 5.3 reads now is that both of a team's goaltenders have to be "incapacitated" before a third can be dressed -- a stipulation that created an issue for the Panthers because Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were hurt in relatively quick succession against the Leafs.

"It's an interesting situation and it's one that has gotten some discussion at the GM level as being a concern," said Daly. "We've had more and more situations where a single goalie goes down and then everybody asks: 'What's the next step? What if we lose our second goalie and who's going to play and what kind of issues are related to that?"'

In the case of Tuesday's game, Montoya played through what is believed to be a groin injury and gave up the winning goal in the process. Eventually Luongo, who was at a local hospital getting a CT scan after taking a shot off the collarbone, returned and finished things out.

Goalie coach Robb Tallas also received approval to enter the game, but Florida GM Dale Tallon told reporters that it didn't come until after Montoya was already playing injured. Forward Derek McKenzie even put on goalie equipment in the dressing room as a precaution.

Basically, the team didn't have a contingency plan in place after Luongo exited at the first intermission.

"You can't start things until the second goalie is hurt," Tallon told the Miami Herald.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was monitoring the game in real time from home while speaking with the league's hockey operations department. Given the unusual nature of the situation, he was pleased with how things went.

"As soon as they saw what happened, the situation room was reaching out to the club to make it as orderly as possible," said Bettman. "That's the beauty of the situation room -- we're watching everything that's going on in every game."