COLUMBUS, Ohio - The New Jersey Devils thought it was the proper call. The Columbus Blue Jackets didn't think anything about it was right.
John Madden scored a controversial goal to help the Devils overcome a third-period deficit and beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 on Friday night.
With the game tied at 1 and 8:41 remaining, the outcome teetered on one play.
David Clarkson's shot appeared to be covered by Columbus goaltender Steve Mason for a second or two before the puck slid free. Madden beat defenceman Fedor Tyutin to the loose puck while the Blue Jackets' other defenceman, Marc Methot, appeared to be pushed into the goal post and dislodged it - an instant before Madden jammed the puck across the goal line.
Referee Don Koharski signalled a goal immediately. The play was reviewed by NHL video officials in Toronto. After a few minutes delay, Koharski said the call on the ice would stand - much to the displeasure of a crowd of 17,738 that loudly booed.
"The call was the call on the ice," New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. "He called it a goal because he felt that we weren't the team that pushed the net off. And the replay showed that. The puck was on its way into the net and their defenseman knocked the net off. That's clearly a goal. It went our way - but it was the right way."
Madden had the best view, but almost shrugged his shoulders.
"Once it's called a goal on the ice, it's hard to overturn," he said. "It's the way the game goes sometimes."
Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock argued with Koharski and fellow official Andy McElman after the ruling.
"(Koharski) said the call was his and (Toronto) sent it back down to him - they ruled it inconclusive," Hitchcock said. "He said 'The call was mine and I called it a goal."'
Asked if he had seen the replay, Hitchcock said he had.
"Yes. The net was off and Methot was pushed in by (New Jersey's Jamie) Langenbrunner," Hitchcock said. "The net was off, but it's the referee's call and he called it a goal. It's a little bit disappointing. We haven't caught a break on one of these yet this year."
Columbus has had several other reviews in Toronto - most notably a goal by Manny Malhotra that would have won a game in Dallas - disallowed. Many of the Blue Jackets believe the review officials have it in for them.
Rookie Steve Mason had 26 saves in his first loss to an Eastern Conference team. He came in with a 6-0-0 record, 0.66 goals-against average, .977 save percentage and four shutouts in six games against the East.
Kevin Weekes had 26 saves for the Devils, who won their second straight fourth games into a six-game road trip, their longest of the season.
"We couldn't generate that much offensively, which is tough playing against that Steve Mason kid," Weekes said. "He's been awesome. Coach kind of handed it to us a little bit in the (second) intermission. He said we needed to get back to doing what makes us a successful team. We did that."
The other goals couldn't have been scored without a lot of help.
The Blue Jackets picked up the only goal of the first two periods when Kristian Huselius carried the puck through traffic in the neutral zone before feeding Manny Malhotra on the left wing. Malhotra skated in on Weekes, his relatively ordinary shot sliding between Weekes' leg pads.
The Devils evened it midway through the third period, thanks to a gift.
Mason had stopped everything coming at him. But 6 seconds into the Devils' first and only power play, Columbus forward R.J. Umberger whiffed on an unobstructed clearing attempt and Travis Zajac collected the puck and fired it past Mason from the left dot for his 13th of the year at the 10:06 mark.
"We definitely got some bounces in the third period to get that win," Madden said. Notes: Referee Brian Pochmara fell down without contact in the first period, skated to the dressing room and did not return. A Blue Jackets spokesman said Pochmara had a recurring shoulder injury. ... Brendan Shanahan, who signed as a free agent earlier in the week, made the trip but did not dress for the Devils. He may play as soon as Saturday night's game at the New York Islanders. ... Blue Jackets LWs Rick Nash (sprained left knee) and Jason Chimera (groin injury) are practicing with their teammates but remain on the IR. ... Columbus had only one minor penalty, matching the fewest penalty minutes in a game in franchise history.