Gallagher’s controversial goal raises replay questions

Jeff Petry talks with Chris Simpson about Canadiens’ win against the Detroit Red Wings and starting the season 6-0.

Something nagged at me after Saturday’s games — I couldn’t figure out why the Detroit Red Wings did not use a coach’s challenge on Brendan Gallagher’s goal that tied the game 1-1.

There was a review to see if Gallagher kicked it in, which is what the situation room is supposed to determine. It’s up to Jeff Blashill to appeal for goaltender interference. The first part happened as expected. The NHL looked at the play and declared “a good goal.” No problem with that.

Detroit’s decision not to follow up with its own request was weird. Then, Blashill refused to explain it post-game. That’s code for there’s more to this story. Or, “It’s better I just eat it and deal with this privately.”

Go back and listen to referee Dave Jackson’s explanation. The last few words are buried in the crowd’s cheers, but he says, “After video review, the puck entered the net in legal fashion, before contact. The goal is good.”

The broadcast showed angles that disputed the puck going in first. Blashill’s probably being told, “Challenge, challenge.” But, if the referee is saying contact happened after the goal, you have to believe you’re not going to win. Don’t bother wasting your timeout.

Suddenly, Detroit’s punt makes sense. Watching live, I assumed the game was already delayed by the first review and someone was trying to prevent a second, meaningless slowdown by warning the Wings, “Don’t bother. It doesn’t end well for you.”

If I’m on the bench and that’s what the referee is telling me — I can only assume Jackson’s message to Blashill was a more detailed variation of what he told the crowd — I’m going to kick the nearest kitten and try to win the game. Grudgingly. Very grudgingly.

What it does, however, is raise some questions.

As NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy texted Sunday, the league’s guidelines on reviewing good goals fall under Rule 38.4, allowing it to make sure pucks aren’t gloved in, kicked in, batted in with a high-stick, etc. Subsection (viii) of 38.4 states the NHL is “not limited to” these specific examples.

What I didn’t know was referees can also ask if the puck went in before contact. I assumed everything to do with goaltender interference was the on-ice officials’ responsibility. Not the case, because the situation room has leeway to intervene.

It also opens the possibility for coaches and teams to blur the line on the challenge. In theory, it gives you an extra opportunity, because instead of using it, you can ask if the puck went in first. No harm, no foul, no loss of timeout if you’re wrong.

This is not to disparage the unbeaten Canadiens, who scored four straight times to win. Montreal outshot Detroit 20-5 in the third period and earned it.

I’m a big proponent of replay. What this illustrates is there are going to be some strange (and if you’re the Wings, infuriating) situations as we get used to this.