Jets’ Hellebuyck on refs’ handling of controversial goal: ‘They put me in danger’

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey and coach Rick Bowness discuss the referee's review on the Dallas Stars' game-tying goal at the end of regulation, saying that play should have stopped after Connor Hellebuyck lost his helmet. Courtesy: Jets TV

A day after Winnipeg nearly saw a win slip away on a controversial goal that saw the puck cross the line with Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck sprawled out, without his helmet and in clear discomfort, the goaltender spoke out about the need for rule changes to further protect goaltenders.

“Those refs made a mistake,” Hellebuyck told the media Saturday, when asked about the play and how it was handled. “But I feel that the rule needs to change so that the war room and the refs have the opportunity to realize that they made a mistake. 

“They put me in danger. There’s a lot of bad things that could have came from that. Plain and simple, when a goalie’s mask gets knocked off, the play needs to get blown dead.”

The play in question occurred in the final minute of Winnipeg’s game against the Dallas Stars on Friday. With the Jets leading 4-3, Dallas captain Jamie Benn was pushed into Hellebuyck by Jets defender Josh Morrissey, making significant contact with the goalie’s head and knocking his mask off.

As Hellebuyck lay flat on the ice, the play continued and the puck wound up on Jason Robertson’s stick — the Stars forward fired it in the net to equalize and send the game to overtime, where Winnipeg wound up getting the win after all.

The goal was reviewed in-game — the review initiated by the NHL’s situation room because the goal was scored in the final minute of regulation — and deemed a good goal because of Morrissey’s contact with Benn.

In Hellebuyck’s view, though, the issue isn’t whether there was interference on the play, but rather that the play should’ve been blown dead because he was in a vulnerable position, with no mask.

“When a goalie’s mask is knocked off or comes off, and it’s not an immediate — and I mean, like, puck’s going in, getting tapped in — that whistle needs to be blown,” Hellebuyck said. “Just like a player who loses his helmet has to go to the bench. He’s allowed to finish the motion of the play, but he has to go to the bench. The same thing should apply for a goalie. Toronto is not able to replay the stoppage of play because that is on the refs, for their [discretion].

“They were replaying goalie interference, which is a different argument. And I don’t really even care about going there — that play needs to be blown dead. There was no immediate scoring chance after that. There were two passes made, and a shot from the point.”

Hellebuyck also shared his perspective on the contact from Morrissey, and the subsequent contact from Benn on his head, after watching the play back on video after the game.

“What I saw was, I made a save, I’m in the crease. I leaned maybe a hair outside the crease — the crease isn’t very wide — maybe I leaned a hair outside, but my balance and my weight was in the crease. [Benn] was coming right by my face, and maybe he wasn’t going to hit me, but he was close enough where any play on him forced him into my head,” the netminder said. “I think Josh did hit him — I don’t know how hard he hit him, that’s not for me to judge because I’m not the one who put the hit on him. But he hit him. 

“And the amount of force that went into my head was very, very scary. The feeling in my neck was very scary. I’m glad I’m OK. I’m glad I’m having a maintenance day today. … I didn’t know if I could get up. But I mean, the way the play goes, they’re expecting me to get up, go to the post, and then square up to a point shot. For me, that’s just way too long. 

“No one’s going to do that with no mask on. We don’t want any goalie in this league [doing that] — we don’t want that for us. We don’t want to see that anywhere in this league. So, the fact that that happened last night is very eye-opening and hopefully we can get better, and get this rule changed.”

A statement from the NHL late Friday, explaining why the goal was allowed to stand, stated: “Video review confirmed that the actions of Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey caused Dallas’ Jamie Benn to contact Connor Hellebuyck prior to Jason Robertson’s goal. The decision was made in accordance with Note 2 of Rule 38.11 (ii) which states, in part, that the goal should be allowed because ‘the attacking Player was pushed, shoved or fouled by the defending Player causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper.’”

The statement did not address the fact that Hellebuyck was down on the ice with no mask as the goal was scored. After the game, Jets head coach Rick Bowness told reporters that general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff would be reaching out to the league about the play.

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