Evgeny Kuznetsov crosses the blueline (via Streamable)
The Capitals were a lock for the playoffs even before Tuesday night, but they officially clinched a post-season berth thanks to a controversial overtime goal by Alex Ovechkin. The goal was upheld after the league initiated a challenge on the play.
The post-season is still nearly one month away, but the Washington Capitals have already clinched themselves a playoff berth and are that much closer to earning the franchise’s second Presidents’ Trophy in seven seasons. But the points that put them into the post-season didn’t come without a bit of controversy.
Tuesday’s game between the Capitals and visiting Carolina Hurricanes went to overtime after the teams player to a 1-1 draw through regulation. Washington iced Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin one minute into the extra frame and the Russian duo was able to ice the game thanks to a slick pass from Kuznetsov that Ovechkin blasted home. However, more than 20 seconds earlier on the zone entry, the play appeared to be offside and a challenge was initiated by the Situation Room. Take a look:
Though it could have very well been ruled that Kuznetsov was offside, a closer look at Rule 83 makes it clear why the call wasn’t reversed. The rule states that, “a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered ‘off-side,’ provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line.” So the ruling in this instance was that Kuznetsov had clear control of the puck while entering the zone.
CSN Washington’s Craig Laughlin pointed out during the broadcast that Kuznetsov seemed to lose control of the puck as he was crossing the blueline. It appears, however, the determination was made that while there was no stick-on-puck control, Kuznetsov was never stripped of the puck and the act of lifting his stick was simply to tap the puck back in Ovechkin’s direction. Not everyone agreed.
"We probably still should be out there in some form or fashion maybe overtime or maybe a shootout, I don't know," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters told AP's Stephen Whyno post-game. "The league will have a really good conversation piece with that."
As for the goal, it was Ovechkin’s first in six games and his 42nd of the season. With 15 games remaining in the season, Ovechkin will need another eight goals to reach the 50-goal plateau for the seventh time in his career, and that doesn’t seem too far out of reach for the Russian sniper.