A controversial non-goal proved to be the difference between the San Jose Sharks taking a stranglehold 3-1 series lead over the Nashville Predators and the Western Conference semifinal being all knotted a two games apiece.
Four minutes into the first overtime frame of Game 4, Joe Pavelski gathered a loose puck at the Predators’ crease front, got shoved by Nashville’s Paul Gaustad, collided with goaltender Pekka Rinne, then made a diving swipe to swat the puck into the net.
The officials initially ruled that the puck did not cross the goal line, then waved it off for goaltender interference. The Sharks, of course, protested. Watch the play:
The NHL situation room’s explanation does not address the incidental contact with the goalie: “At 4:08 of overtime in the Sharks/Predators game, video review confirmed the referee’s call on the ice that the puck did not cross the Nashville goal-line. No goal San Jose.”
Though he did praise the excellent performance by Rinne, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was irked by the call:
“The explanation that I got was that they ruled he did not get his stick on it before it crossed the goal-line, so it was a good goal from that point of view, but that he made incidental contact with the goalie. That’s why they waved it off,” DeBoer told reporters.
Surely, the memory of a lost goal in Game 1 of their series with the Los Angeles Kings still lingers in DeBoer’s mind.
“I don’t understand. I guess incidental contact is you’re cross-checked from behind while you are in the air and you have the opportunity to stop. I guess that’s what it is,” DeBoer said.
“You know what? That rule has been clear as mud to every coach in the league all year, so why should it be different tonight?”
Pavelski and Logan Couture also questioned the ruling. Here’s Pavelski:
“We were pretty positive it was a goal,” said Couture. “Pavs hit it with his stick, and he got cross-checked pretty hard from Gaustad. The explanation was that he had time to stop. If you’re reaching up to get a puck and getting cross-checked from behind, I don’t know where you find time to stop. It’s a weird one.”
The non-goal could prove to be a significant turning point in the series. Nashville would go on to score in the third overtime period.
Game 5 of the 2-2 series goes Saturday night in San Jose.