The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings were locked in a typically epic battle that usually erupts between them, with the score tied 1-1. But the tide turned on one awful call.
With 8:04 left in the third and San Jose goalie Alex Stalock seemingly on top of the puck, Kings forward Justin Williams crashed the net with his stick. He used it to dig at the puck and push Stalock towards the net, which knocked the puck out from under the pad and into the net.
Goal or no goal?
Thankfully, the Kings scored two more legitimate goals so that this didn’t stand as the only difference in the game. But how in the world could this goal have stood? Referee Chris Lee had his whistle up by his mouth as he was gliding into the crease, but never blew it. Instead, he signaled for a goal.
So, what does the rulebook say?
69.3 Contact Inside the Goal Crease - If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
Seems pretty clear here. The play should have been blown dead when the puck was beneath Stalock and Williams certainly should not have been allowed to advance the puck across the goal line by pushing the goalie.
Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser pointed at Rule 69.6 as reason to disallow the goal. Make that 2-0 in favor of no-goal.
69.6 Rebounds and Loose Pucks - In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.
In the event that a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck by an attacking player after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed. If applicable, appropriate penalties will be assessed.
In the event that the puck is under a player in or around the crease area (deliberately or otherwise), a goal cannot be scored by pushing this player together with the puck into the goal. If applicable, the appropriate penalties will be assessed, including a penalty shot if deemed to be covered in the crease deliberately.
The goal set off a complete meltdown by the Sharks and a very rough finish. Jonathan Quick attacked Joe Thornton, Logan Couture fought Mike Richards and there were plenty of post-whistle shenanigans. But in the end, the Sharks loss can’t be blamed only on this goal. They need to have thicker skin and show more scoreboard push back than they did. As a team with a shaky post-season past and now one loss away from blowing a 3-0 series lead, San Jose has let Los Angeles get in their heads.
If the Sharks lose the series, this call won’t be to blame either. The takeaway from this incident is the role of instant replay. This specific ruling was unreviewable, even though that could have helped the official take the time to make the right call. Goals should always be reviewable.
There will always be bad or missed calls in NHL games and part of being a winning team is overcoming the ones that go against you. But a team can defend a bad penalty by killing it off. It can’t defend a bad call that has already put the puck in the net.