Players are always searching for that extra tool, an extra edge, and Sharks forward Ryane Clowe might have flicked on the light bulb in the league by reaching over the bench with his stick to illegally play the puck against the Kings.
Not only did he disrupt the Kings' rush late in regulation, but also Clowe got away with it, unseen by the referees Thursday night at Staples Center.
"It was pretty effective. I'm thinking about using it myself," said Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi, joking in his usual dry manner.
The topic was lively after a short practice Friday in El Segundo before the Kings left for San Jose for Saturday night's rematch with the Sharks, the regular-season finale. The Sharks won one of the wilder games in recent memory Thursday, beating the Kings, 6-5, in a shootout.
They are tied in the Western Conference with 94 points but the Kings are ahead on the tiebreaker. The Coyotes, by winning Friday night against St. Louis, moved into the Pacific Division lead (and third spot in the conference) with 95 points and the Kings dropped to seventh and the Sharks are in eighth.
Still the close-up remained on Clowe for another day.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter mused about the forward who was drafted by the Sharks when Sutter was still coaching in San Jose.
"Ryane Clowe, I bet he did that when he was a little boy back there. I know him," said Sutter, who later praised Clowe for getting the most out of his ability.
Clowe handled initial postgame questions by slipping into denial mode but owned up to it Friday, saying he knew it was "stupid."
"It was kind of a brain cramp, I guess," he told David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News. "The play, how it happened, I guess I was standing up and sometimes during a game like that, you're so into it and emotional it was just kind of a reaction. It's not anything that's planned, it just happens.
"Obviously, as you can tell when I sat down on the bench, that was stupid, that was a dumb play. It probably should have been a two-minute penalty, and I was lucky it didn't cost the team."
In response to the incident, league officials cited the rule regarding interference, Rule 56: "If the officials had seen the actions of Ryan Clowe it would have definitely been a two-minute interference penalty. It was obviously a missed call," said Colin Campbell of the NHL, the league's director of hockey operations.
Scuderi, however, spoke about the potential ramifications. For example, a player could weigh the risk of a two-minute minor vs. a game-saving play in the waning seconds of an overtime game.
"I think it's almost at the point where they have to do something," he said. "Like you said, if it is not a strict penalty and it was overtime of Game 7, then I'd stick my stick over the bench."
He immediately banished that option, saying: "Actually, I wouldn't. It's more of an integrity-of-the-game-type thing. But who's to say somebody else wouldn't try it?"
Said Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell: "There's the potential for injuries as well as changing the outcome of the game. ... Unfortunately, the refs didn't see it. We accept that. We're OK with that.
"It's not the best outcome for us because it would have been a two-man advantage, but I don't make every play on the ice and no referee makes every play."
Special teams fest
Sutter called Thursday's contest a power-play game, and that was an understatement. There were seven power-play goals with the Kings scoring four and the Sharks three.
"We took some bad penalties," said Sutter. "Both teams did. ...You can talk about [officiating] all you want, but that's what you got, right? Both teams took some penalties, I'll guarantee the coaches, staffs from both teams won't be very happy about."
Times staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.