Down by a goal and facing elimination in Game 6, the Ottawa Senators were playing for their lives Sunday evening against the Montreal Canadiens.
It looked like the Senators tied it up at 1 when Mark Borowiecki's shot was mishandled by Carey Price and Jean-Gabriel Pageau swooped in and knocked in the rebound.
The problem: before Pageau shot the puck, referee Chris Lee blew the play dead when he lost site of the puck. No goal.
Here's the play as it unfolded:
There has been some talk that the goal was reviewable. The play, however, was not reviewable. While it should clearly have been a goal, this was not an instance where the play could have been overturned via video replay.
The confusion stems from the NHL's summary of its new rules, which was published back in September. In the summary, the NHL announced that the new video review rules would "allow Hockey Operations to provide guidance to referees on goal and potential goal plays where the referee has blown his whistle (or intended to blow his whistle) after having lost sight of the puck."
The wording is sufficiently broad to capture the Pageau goal since it basically says a play can be reviewed if a goal was scored after the play was blown dead.
Here's the problem: the summary of the rule is not the actual rule. The actual rule, which is Rule 38.4(viii), is a lot narrower in scope.
This is what it says:
The video review process shall be permitted to assist the Referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g. to ensure they are “good hockey goals”). For example (but not limited to), pucks that enter the net by going through the net meshing, pucks that enter the net from underneath the net frame, pucks that hit the spectator netting prior to being directed into the goal, pucks that enter the net undetected by the Referee, etc. This would also include situations whereby the Referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses (or has crossed) the goal line and enters the net as the culmination of a continuous play where the result was unaffected by the whistle (i.e., the timing of the whistle was irrelevant to the puck entering the net at the end of a continuous play).
The key part of this rule is the reference to "continuous play". The play is only reviewable if we are dealing with a continuous or uninterrupted play.
That is not considered a continuous or uninterrupted play.
It has two distinct components: the Borowiecki shot and the Pageau shot.
If Borowiecki had taken the shot and it got by Price after a quick whistle, then it would have been a continuous play and therefore reviewable. The second shooter (Pageau) broke up the play, which is ultimately fatal if you were looking for video review.
For that reason, the play was never reviewed. Rule 38.4 more appropriately applies to a scenario where a shot is taken, the goalie gets a piece of it, the whistle blows and the pucks slides or trickles into the net without anyone else laying a stick on it. That's what happened in Vancouver when Jannik Hansen was credited with a goal after the play was reviewed:
One more thing. Price is a great goaltender who doesn't give up many rebounds. It's possible that had another goalie been in that net (like Jimmy Howard), the whistle would have been blown later. Effectively, Price's reputation - and not Price - made that save.
And another thing. We too often hear in similar circumstances that the team victimized by a terrible call had plenty of other opportunities to score but couldn't capitalize. The idea of course is to diminish the importance of the bad call. At a fundamental level, this statement is flawed. In sports today, there is not only parity among teams but also among athletes and often times games turn on a single moment.
And Pageau was one such moment.