The Controversial Waved-Off Goal That Doomed the Capitals to Game 7

April 23, 2019 - 12:41 pm

WASHINGTON (106.7 The Fan) -- For the first time in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series between the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and the upstart Carolina Hurricanes, the team that scored the first goal of the game lost.

That team was the Caps. The winning team was the 'Canes. That means we get a Game 7 at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night.

The final score was 5-2, but the game was closer than that would indicate and included plenty of controversy.

It appeared as if the Caps had tied the game at 3-3 in the third period with Evgeny Kuznetsov's drive and push to the net. The NHL officiating crew immediately waved off the apparent goal and did not change the call after review when the Caps challenged the call.

The NHL's explanation said "Alex Ovechkin interfered with Petr Mrazek by pushing his pad." Per Rule 69.3, "If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed."

Here's my spin: It's a bad rule and a bad interpretation. From the reverse angle via NBC Sports Washington's coverage, you can see Ovechkin's stick making contact with Mrazek's pad first and then the puck trickles in behind Mrazek.

We could not see for sure whether Ovechkin's stick actually made contact with the puck after that, but it's believed that it did.

The momentum of Ovechkin's force from crashing the net does contribute to the puck going in behind Mrazek, but it's not the typical definition of goaltender interference, which would result in a two-minute penalty for the player that interferes with the goalie.

The NHL is saying that the goal was scored because of the interference. However, Ovechkin's contact didn't prevent Mrazek from making the save, in my opinion, as is standard for goaltender interference. This is an extension to the rule.

Mrazek did not have full control of the puck behind him and the play was not whistled dead, allowing Ovechkin to poke at what he interprets as a loose puck, without a whistle blowing the play dead.

If he doesn't interfere with the goaltender's ability to make a save (he didn't) and the play had not been whistled dead, some contact in the crease has to be allowed.

Rules are rules. It doesn't mean that they are good rules.

For our "Five Duds" of the night:

1. NHL officiating takes the cake here for the controversial call above and a terrible penalty called against Dmitry Orlov for embellishment late in the second period. There were other calls that could have gone either way, but those two had a huge impact on the game. The Caps lost a power play opportunity in a 2-2 game on the Orlov incident because the first call was against the Hurricanes. 

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: He was better in the third period, including a couple of chances that put heat on Carolina and the play on what he thought was the game-tying goal, but Kuznetsov was sloppy with the puck for the first two periods and at times in the third. Kuznetsov wound up with four shots on goal and a couple of takeaways, but he also had three giveaways.

3. Caps puck management: It was good in the first period and not very good for the next 30 minutes or so. The Capitals turned the puck over, they couldn't gain entry into the Hurricanes defensive zone, their passes were sloppy and they couldn't generate a good forecheck, which was huge in the Game 5 beatdown.

4. Jonas Siegenthaler: His turnover led directly to Carolina's second goal of the night. His stick appeared to jam into the boards on a clear, which wound up going right to Carolina and then quickly behind Braden Holtby.

5. Caps defense: The six-man group was a combined minus-five. They didn't play positionally bad, but some bad breaks (Siegenthaler) and the first goal (after a penalty expired and a broken stick) were unfortunate. The eventual game-winning goal by Jordan Staal was a result of the Caps not being able to get control of a loose puck, and the fourth Carolina marker was a deflection by Justin Williams, who was allowed to set up shop in front of Holtby.

By Chris Russell