Controversy around goaltender interference is nothing new in the NHL. So forgive us if you’ve heard this before.
On Thursday night, trailing Vegas 4-3 in the third period, the Ottawa Senators gave up a goal they immediately wanted reviewed for goalie interference (you can see it atop this post). They were sure the ruling would be overturned, but the controversial goal stood and the Golden Knights took a two-goal lead with eight minutes left.
It was a backbreaker for the Sens.
“I don’t know anymore. All of us together we just don’t know anymore. We’ll let them decide and that’s it,” a frustrated Guy Boucher said after the loss. “I guess that’s why I’m not paid for those decisions. I don’t want to think anything, it’s not my job. I’ll let them do their job. Just personally I couldn’t explain it anymore.”
There was no doubt contact between Craig Anderson and Vegas’s William Carrier in front of the net. But the nature of the contact and the position of the skater is a factor into why the league made this ruling.
The Situation Room determined that Anderson initiated contact with Carrier, who was outside the crease prior to the goal. Therefore no goaltender interference infractions occurred. The decision was made in accordance with Rule 69.7 which states, in part, that the goal on the ice should have been allowed because “in a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.
It’s important to note that Carrier’s positioning alone wasn’t enough to ensure this was a goal. Had he initiated contact, even standing outside the crease, in a way that prevented Anderson from stopping the shot it would have been goaltender interference. But at the very least this was incidental contact, and Anderson himself could even be seen as the one who initiated the contact when his leg kicked out and hit Carrier, causing him to fall.
Not only is this covered in Rule 69.7 (Rebounds and Loose Pucks) as cited by the league, but also in Rule 69.4 (Contact Outside the Goal Crease). Emphasis our own:
“If an attacking player initiates any contact with a goalkeeper, other than incidental contact, while the goalkeeper is outside his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed. A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. However, incidental contact will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact.”
In the initial definition of the rule (69.1), it is clearly stated that a goal will count if contact is made with the goalie outside of the crease, so long as it was not intentionally done by the attacker, or if it was a defender or the goalie himself who initiates it.
It is hard to argue that Carrier was unreasonably interfering with the goalie here, as his back was turned to Anderson the whole time.
It was a frustrating goal and ruling at a bad time in the game for Ottawa, and had this happened in a playoff game the controversy may have taken on a life of its own. But by the NHL’s own rulebook, it’s pretty clear Carrier was not at fault on this play and, therefore, the goal stood.