By Steve Kallas
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By now you’ve seen the play. Very late in Game 6, down 3-1, Chris Neil and the Ottawa Senators crash the net, desperate for a goal. Henrik Lundqvist seems bizarrely out of position as it appears that Neil, clearly in the crease, kicks the puck into the net to make it 3-2 with 38.4 seconds left. Lundqvist appeals to the ref immediately, telling the first ref that Neil kicked the puck and then skating around the net to talk to the second ref, appearing to tell him (with a pushing motion) that he, Lundqvist, had been pushed.
The goal is allowed to stand and Lundqvist was steaming as he was celebrating the 3-2 victory for the Rangers to force a Game 7.
WHAT DID LUNDQVIST SAY ABOUT THE PLAY?
Well, here is his quote, from MSGNetwork: “I think it’s an absolute joke. You know, I’m gonna freeze the puck and he [Neil] pushes me out of the net and kicks the puck in the net.” The King went on to talk about someone wanting Ottawa in the game, a silly statement for which he should be fined.
But you can understand his frustration.
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE REVIEW?
You can watch that play 20 times and, although Neil did make a kicking motion at the puck, you can’t actually see him kick it in. The puck certainly squirted through Lundqvist, who did make the initial save but, to overturn, the officials up in Toronto must not have actually seen the puck kicked into the net. Absent such a clear view (and Lundqvist, frankly, must have had the best view of all), the goal could not be disallowed.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PRETTY OBVIOUS GOALIE INTERFERENCE?
Well, the interference by Neil with The King was obvious. He literally took his stick and jammed it into Lundqvist, pushing him away from the puck and the net. While it’s easy to see on the replay, the ref, behind the net, is always looking for the puck and, when he saw it go into the net, he had to make a split-second decision in real time and he ruled it a goal.
But he, and virtually everybody else, missed the obvious goalie interference.
Since that part of the play was not reviewable, you had the awkward situation, not evident usually, for example, in NFL replay (where they can review both feet-in-bounds AND possession, for example, on a sideline catch), where there wasn’t enough evidence to say the puck was actually kicked but there was nothing that could be done with the obvious goalie interference by Neil.
WHAT’S A REVIEW PANEL TO DO?
Well, there will be a train of thought that says, since the goalie interference was so obvious (assuming anyone up in Toronto looked for it), they should have disallowed the goal whether it was clear that Neil kicked the puck or not.
But, of course, the other train of thought is that two wrongs don’t make a right.
WHAT ABOUT LUNDQVIST’S PRIOR COMPLAINTS TO THE REFS?
Lundqvist clearly had at least two prior conversations with the refs concerning goalie interference in Game 6, especially one time when Senator Nick Foligno clearly interfered with The King. So Lundqvist was doubly mad that they missed the kick AND missed the interference.
Yes, he’s a great competitor. Yes, replay didn’t quite work to the full extent that it was supposed to work (because it wasn’t crystal clear that the puck was actually kicked AND nothing could be done about the interference that wasmissed just before the goal was scored).
It says here that maybe, just maybe, the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist were making a pitch to get the benefit of the doubt on the next close review and/or the next close penalty call with respect to goalie interference.
We will have to wait until Game 7 to see how that plays out, if at all.