OTTAWA, Ontario — Wayne Simmonds described playing the Ottawa Senators as similar to working your way through a maze.
In what appeared to be the Flyers’ game-tying goal with 56 seconds remaining in regulation, Sean Couturier pushed the puck across the line and into the webbing of Craig Anderson’s glove just before referee Steve Kozari had blown the whistle.
As Dave Hakstol came out of the coach’s room to address the media, he had just viewed the play from the overhead angle that provided conclusive evidence.
“We tied it up,” Hakstol said. “It’s there. I just watched it on our own video in the coach’s room and it’s clear as day. I watched the puck go over the line. It’s 100 percent a goal.
“I don’t know how that’s missed. That bothers me because the guys fought their rear ends off to get back into this game and tie this thing up.”
Hakstol said he was provided no explanation, but the NHL handed down this ruling from the NHL’s situation room in Toronto:
“The referee informed the Situation Room that he was in the process of blowing his whistle to stop play when he lost sight of the puck under Craig Anderson’s skate. According to 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 stop play by blowing the whistle.’ This is not a reviewable play, therefore, the referee’s call on the ice stands — no goal Philadelphia.”
“I didn’t even know it went in,” Couturier said. “I tried to jam it and I didn’t really know where it was. When I found out it was in his glove I thought maybe it was in, but I don’t know. I don’t know what the explanation was.”
That was the first of two goals that went against the Flyers in the third period. The first one came with 10:22 remaining in the game when Brandon Manning blasted a shot past Ottawa’s Anderson, which would have cut the Senators’ lead to 4-3.
However, Sens coach Guy Boucher challenged the marker on account of goaltender’s interference. Flyers forward Jordan Weal backed his way into the crease, but it was Anderson who initiated contact. Weal had left the crease as Manning was firing off the shot.
After further review, the NHL’s situation room had determined the contact was worth waving off the goal.
“(Valtteri) Filppula had the puck and I realized I was a little close and he kind of shoved me,” Weal said. “I got out of the way as the shot was coming in and I guess in their eyes they saw something different. We got a couple of tough calls against us there. It seems like we’re getting that every couple of games — a couple of tough calls against us. We played strong and sometimes those things happen.”
“The first overturned goal — those are judgement calls,” Hakstol said. “I don’t get involved in second-guessing them. I thought it was a goal, but they’ve got to make that call when they watch it. But that’s a judgement call.”
Roughly a minute later, the Senators converted a 2-on-1 when Tom Pyatt wristed a shot far post to beat Flyers netminder Michal Neuvirth blocker side. In the span of 57 seconds, the Flyers went from possibly being a goal down to staring at a 5-2 Ottawa lead.
“We dug ourselves a hole, but the big thing is we dug out of that hole. Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Hakstol said.
“It always sucks getting the goal called off, but I think we responded pretty well,” Couturier said. “We kept going. We scored two goals and almost the tying goal. We battled hard to get back but we need to have a better start.”
For a second straight road game, the Flyers trailed 3-0 in the opening period. It took all of 91 seconds for the Senators to jump on the board as Dion Phaneuf’s wrist shot from just inside the blue line found its way through a line of players to the top right corner of the net.
“I didn’t see it. I’ve got to watch the replay, but I don’t think it was a hard shot,” Neuvirth said. “But we’ve got to block those on the PK.”
After giving up two or fewer goals in his first three starts, Neuvirth had his toughest night of the season as the Senators touched him up for five goals on 28 shots.
“It was a tough game,” Neuvirth said. “Five goals against is way too much. Got to be better.”
The Flyers were well aware of Ottawa’s 1-3-1 neutral zone play that clogs up the middle of the ice, and yet Hakstol’s club was turnover-prone in the first 15 minutes of the game, which led to the 3-0 deficit.
“I think we were just sloppy,” Jakub Voracek said. “There’s no way around it. Bad start and they score right away. Second goal was a blown coverage by me. We played better from the second period, but sometimes it’s not good enough. We just didn’t skate and if you don’t skate, you don’t have the openings. You don’t skate, you get scored on and there goes the first period.”
The Flyers can only hope whatever maze they navigate in Toronto Saturday night doesn’t have quite the same steep, uphill climb.