Ron Hextall, Flyers dumbfounded by NHL's explanation for no-goal calls

Ron Hextall, Flyers dumbfounded by NHL's explanation for no-goal calls

TORONTO — If the NHL rulebook had any more shades of gray to it, the league could probably rebrand it as a romance novel.

Thursday night in Ottawa only added another layer of depth to its confusing text when Sean Couturier scored what clearly appeared to be the game-tying goal (watch the goal here), as he pushed the puck across the line and into Craig Anderson’s glove (see story).

Friday, the NHL defended its controversial ruling but stating “the play was not reviewable,” which begs the obvious question, why would the on-ice officials send the play to the NHL’s situation room in Toronto for a review if the rule states it’s not a reviewable play? Perhaps, the guys in stripes, like many of us, aren’t completely sure how the rulebook reads.

“They’re obviously going to defend it. They have to, right?” Wayne Simmonds said. “They can’t say they’re wrong. There’s lot of pride (in the league office), and no one willing to swallow it.”

The NHL already had a lump in their collective throats from admitting just a week ago that officials and the situation room erred in a game between the Avalanche and the Blues when video review incorrectly nullified Colorado’s late goal. It was the first instance since coaching challenges were introduced in 2015-16 that the league admitted a mistake was made on an offside review.

With that in mind, there was no way Gary Bettman and associates were about to fess up to a decision that can be attributed to a convoluted set of rules. 

In the case of Couturier’s goal, there’s Rule 78.5 section (xii): Apparent goals shall be disallowed when the referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing the whistle. 

Which seems to be contradicted by Rule 38.4 (viii): The video review process shall be permitted to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of ALL potential goals. … This would also include situations whereby the referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses the goal line.

You can see how rule 78.5 and rule 38.4 are playing this jurisdictional tug-of-war.

Prior to that, the Flyers were victimized by rule 69.3 — Contact Inside the Goal Crease which says (in part): If a goalkeeper, in the act of establishing his position within his goal crease, initiates contact with the attacking player who is in the goal crease and this results in an impairment of the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

Such was the case when Anderson grazed Jordan Weal, nullifying what would have been a goal that brought the Flyers to a 4-3 deficit. The key word in that rule is “impairment.” How much impairment is required to disallow a goal? Just over the past few years, we’ve seen that particular call go either way.  

“For me, there’s so many changes from year to year and what they’re calling from goalie interference and things like that, where I don’t even know the rules,” goalie Brian Elliott said. “I don’t even know when a guy bumps me. You have time to reset, but you’re not on your angle, and he scores, is that interference? Yes, but I don’t know. There are so many things that you go out there and you complain that you got interfered with and see what happens.” 

The video review process and the technology that comes with a multitude of camera angles was intended to fix all of this. Instead, it has seemed to only add an additional layer of confusion.   

“It's supposed to have no mistakes, right?” Simmonds said. “What’s the point of having the video if you can’t get it right?” 

And a rulebook should be written much like a set of laws, and those who are asked to follow those rules and laws should have a clear understanding of its context.

“I guess you look back and say, ‘What didn’t we learn?’ I’m not sure,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. “We don’t agree with either call. I’ve talked to some people, but those are confidential conversations. There’s no sense getting into it. We’re not going to get the goal back.”

A comprehensive rulebook is now the subject of subjectivity in which layers of protection have given those who make the rules a necessary “out clause” when needed. When asked what’s fair or what’s not in today’s game, Hextall probed just a little deeper.

“It’s society, right? Those of us who lived 30 years ago, we know differently," Hextall said. "That’s where we’re at. It’s not changing. The game is different. The game has changed with society.”  

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics


Jakub Voracek had dead aim, at least that’s what the score sheet confirmed Tuesday following the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens (see observations).

Two shots on net. Two shots that found a way past Carey Price.

Even though the NHL’s assist leader has more shots on net than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Voracek hears the voices that say he passes up on quality scoring opportunities. 

One prime example came with 30 seconds remaining in the second period. Claude Giroux forced a takeaway and fed Voracek on a 2-on-0 prime scoring chance, but it resulted in Voracek sending a pass back to Giroux when perhaps he should have shot.

“It’s always easier to say we’re over-passing things,” Voracek said. “If you’re on the ice, the actual situation looks completely different. I hear ‘shoot the puck’ every single time I touch it. If I listened to all the people who say shoot the puck, I’d have 500 shots at the end of the season.”

However, Voracek shot the puck when it mattered most. With the Flyers trailing, 2-1, Dave Hakstol pulled goaltender Alex Lyon for the extra attacker Voracek, who took a shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off the stick of Max Pacioretty and past Price for the game-tying goal, and then buried the game-winner 1:26 into overtime (see highlights).

When asked if he caught Price by surprise on the equalizer, Voracek responded: “Me shooting? 100 percent. I just tried to hide behind the D and I got lucky and it went in.”

“It’s one of those nights when you had a lot of really good scoring opportunities and we weren’t able to cash in on them,” Hakstol said. “It’s nice to get a bounce like that with a minute and a half to go to tie it up.”

For the game, the Flyers had 79 shot attempts to Montreal’s 55. Thankfully for the Flyers, No. 79 was Voracek’s game-winner, which came at the end of his 56-second shift. Had he missed the net and been forced to play defense at the other end of the ice, there may not have been much left in the tank.     

“I was pretty tired,” Voracek said. “I’d rather have it like that. If I had missed the net, I’d have to stay on the ice and try to backcheck after, so I got lucky.”

Voracek became the second player in franchise history to score a game-tying goal in the final two minutes of regulation, and then follow it up with an overtime game-winner. Moving forward, the Flyers may need Voracek to shoot and score more with the recent injury to Wayne Simmonds, who will miss the next two to three weeks with an upper-body injury (see story).

To make matters worse, Flyers top-line winger Travis Konecny may have suffered a foot injury after taking a shot off his skate in the opening period (see video). Konecny never left the game but labored playing short, limited shifts, and wasn’t on the ice with Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov to begin the overtime session.

“He obviously got hit with the puck there, but he finished the game and that’s part of the game,” Hakstol said. “He was obviously sore through the rest of the game, but I give him credit, he continued to battle through to do everything that he could.”

Less than 24 hours after the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings to solidify the goaltending position, Alex Lyon turned in another solid effort with 25 saves on 27 shots, beating perennial All-Stars Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price in back-to-back victories.

“Yeah, it’s cool obviously to play against those guys,” Lyon said. “You watch them and you try to model your game after them. Obviously, they’re fantastic. In the same breath, you've got to go out there and say, ‘I’m coming out here to be better than you today.’”  

“It’s always nice to have some clarity,” Hakstol said. “I think Alex said it best after the game in New York the other day — it’s an ever-changing business. You just have to be ready and prepared for what the next day brings. He pretty much lived by his words.”

• Simmonds' streak of 223 consecutive games played ended Tuesday night. It marked the first game Simmonds has missed dating back to April 11, 2015.

• For the third straight game, the Flyers weren’t forced to utilize their penalty kill at any point, becoming the second team in NHL history to go three games without allowing a power-play opportunity.

• Forward Oskar Lindblom made his NHL debut Tuesday night, replacing the injured Simmonds in the Flyers' lineup. Lindblom finished the game with 15:11 of ice time and one shot on net.  

Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

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Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defenseman Scott Harrington broke a second-period tie with his second goal of the season, and the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak and ended the New Jersey Devils' four-game winning streak with a 2-1 decision on Tuesday night.

Boone Jenner also scored as the Blue Jackets moved into the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, one ahead of Carolina and the Islanders. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves in helping the Blue Jackets win for the fifth time in 15 games (5-9-2).

Taylor Hall scored for the Devils to extend his point-scoring streak to 12 games, tying David Pastrnak of the Bruins for the league-high this season. He also pushed his personal point-scoring streak to 19 games. He missed three games with a thumb injury, so the league does not consider that to be part of his current streak.

Keith Kinkaid had 17 saves for New Jersey, which holds the first wild-card spot in the conference (see full recap).

Point helps Lightning beat Capitals in showdown
WASHINGTON -- Brayden Point scored two first-period goals, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots to earn his NHL-leading 35th victory and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 Tuesday night in a matchup between division leaders.

Chris Kunitz also scored in the opening period, which ended with Tampa Bay up 3-0. That was enough of a cushion for Vasilevskiy, an All-Star who came in with a 2.34 goals-against average.

After Alex Ovechkin notched his NHL-high 36th goal for Washington to make it 3-2 at 11:02 of the third period, Nikita Kucherov clinched it with a breakaway goal with 7:02 remaining.

The victory improved Tampa Bay's NHL-best record to 40-17-3 and kept the Lightning ahead of surging Boston in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

Lars Eller scored a power-play goal for the Capitals, who lead Pittsburgh by one point in the Metropolitan Division (see full recap).

Andersen makes 40 saves in Maple Leafs’ shutout
TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen made 40 saves and James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal as the surging Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers 1-0 on Tuesday night.

The shutout was Andersen's career-best fifth of the season. The 28-year-old goalie has reached 30 wins for the third time.

Toronto (37-20-5) has won 11 of 12 and improved to 14-4-2 since Jan. 4.

The Panthers (26-25-6) have dropped back-to-back games after opening their five-game road trip with three straight wins. Florida entered the night six points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Florida threatened in the third with goaltender Roberto Luongo pulled for an extra attacker, but Andersen managed to thwart the Panthers' best chance -- a point shot from Keith Yandle with 23 seconds remaining.

Luongo stopped 30 shots in the loss (see full recap).