Goalie interference controversy overshadows wild Battle of Alberta

Gene Principe and Mark Spector breakdown the Oilers 4-3 shootout win over the Calgary Flames and address goalie interference.

EDMONTON — Cam Talbot is a goalie. He should know what goaltender interference is, right?

“No effin’ idea.”

Connor McDavid is about as controversial as a cup of coffee, no? So how come he left Thursday’s game with an Abuse of Officials penalty next to his name?

“I did what I did. I hope they’re not too upset with me,” he said afterwards.

Yes, it was quite a tilt Thursday in Edmonton, with a disallowed goal in overtime, a 4-3 Oilers shootout win over the Calgary Flames, and a rare burst of personality from McDavid after his shootout game-winner.

After assisting on Ryan Strome’s overtime winner that was called back because one of the National Hockey League’s cheesy goalie interference calls, McDavid scored on David Rittich in the shootout. As he skated to the Oilers bench he made the same motion with his hand that the referee makes when a play is destined for review

You could read McDavid’s lips as he pointed at the arena roof. “Go upstairs!”

It was a young, emotional superstar in the heat of the moment saying, “Take this one away from us, NHL.” He was speaking, truthfully, for almost every hockey fan on the planet who has had enough of these reviews.

God forbid McDavid be allowed to show some emotion.

His reward? An Abuse of Officials penalty.

“It was frustration, which I probably shouldn’t have done, obviously,” McDavid said post-game. “I was frustrated. I thought it wasn’t the right call. They are just trying to do their jobs and what is best for the game, but you don’t always have to agree with it. Obviously, I shouldn’t have done that, but it was frustrating.”

This was one of those rare NHL games worth every dollar of your $300 ticket, with the Flames collecting a point for their 11th straight game, despite extending their losing streak to four games.

(Now, doesn’t that last sentence reek of the new NHL?)

Edmonton has won four of five heading into the All-Star break, but are still a million miles from contention. After that 5-0 loss to Buffalo, however, this will cool the waters for a while here.

But we’ll dwell for a bit on another night where the NHL eliminated goals that they simply cannot afford to eliminate in these low-scoring times. Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu was robbed earlier in the night in Pittsburgh, and then in Edmonton, as a crowd stood and cheered an overtime winner, their celebration was interrupted as the referees gathered around the iPad of Doom.

“I think everyone just wants it to be black and white, to be goaltender interference or not,” said McDavid, who will not face any further discipline for the misconduct. “I saw it on the Jumbotron, and what I saw was just myself trying to make a play at the net and I was trying to get out of the way. I do avoid the goalie, but I catch his stick.

“If I am the goaltender, I’m going to start trying to sell it,” he reasoned. “I am always trying to defend the refs and try not to do stuff like I did tonight.”

A team that lost a Game 5 in Anaheim last spring when Ryan Kesler was laying on Talbot’s right leg is still a little tender on this topic, of course. Even the goaltenders union, a group bound tight enough to have hoodwinked the entire hockey world on the size of equipment for over 20 years now, can’t stay together on this one.

“If we would have got a call last year, who knows what would have happened,” Talbot said. “It looked like (Rittich) even got up. If there’s goalie interference, how does he end up making a play on it?”

The foot hovering above the ice causing an offside, the hard-driving player who catches the goalie’s stick as he flies by… When we opened this can of worms called video replay, no one intended to wipe out this many goals for infractions this minor.

But we’re here now. Thank goodness this game was exciting enough that it was not ruined by another one of these calls that the NHL’s general managers have not yet shown the courage to walk back on.

Matt Tkachuk (two goals) was a force that the rulebook, let alone the Oilers, could not contain; Brandon Davidson, who was Edmonton’s seventh defenceman until Adam Larsson could not play due to personal circumstances, scored twice for Edmonton.

And a superstar set up the winner, had it called back, then won the game in a shootout anyhow.

It’s a good thing the All-Star break is here. This one will take a while to digest.

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