The defining moment of the Capitals’ Game 6 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday was Alex Ovechkin’s disallowed goal in the third period.

Ovechkin thought he had tied the game at 3 when he poked a loose puck across the goal line, but the goal was waved off by the referee and the play upheld after a coach’s challenge.

You can watch the play here:

The NHL released the following explanation of the call: 

At 10:34 of third period in the Capitals/Hurricanes game, Washington requested a Coach’s Challenge to review the “Interference on the Goalkeeper” decision that resulted in a “no goal” call.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Referee, the Situation Room confirmed that Alex Ovechkin interfered with Petr Mrazek by pushing his pad, which caused the puck to enter the net. According to Rule 69.3, “If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.”

Therefore, the original call is upheld – no goal Washington Capitals.

Mrazek was in the crease, Ovechkin clearly made contact with his pad as he went for the puck and, according to the rule, even incidental contact will result in a disallowed goal. The fact that Ovechkin was clearly going for the puck and not simply trying to push Mrazek back into the net is irrelevant.

 

Caps fans may not want to admit it, but this seems pretty black and white…until you read the rule that completely contradicts it.

Rule 69 is the rule that deals with goalie interference. The NHL cited rule 69.3 in its explanation for the disallowed goal. Rule 69.7, however, deals with rebounds and loose pucks. That rule states, “In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether insider or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.”

After the game on Monday, the Caps were fuming at the call because the puck was clearly loose.

“I saw the puck,” Ovechkin said. “He didn't get it in control. He didn't see that, so I don't know what the referee saw or what the explanation was.”

“From our angle from the bench it looked like the puck was loose,” Reirden said. “We talked with our video staff and they felt like it was worth a challenge in that situation. That’s not how the league or the referees saw it and that’s a decision they made. But for us we thought the puck was loose. It was still a puck that was in play.”

When you see the replay, it’s hard to argue. That puck was loose. Rule 69.3 says it doesn’t matter. Rule 69.7 says it does.

When you read the NHL’s explanation for why the goal was disallowed, it makes sense. It stinks, but Ovechkin makes incidental contact with Mrazek in the crease. But take the same play and let’s pretend that the call was overturned and the goal allowed on the coach’s challenge. If the NHL cited Rule 69.7 in its explanation, it still would make complete sense.

If you can use two different rules on the exact same play to justify two different calls, that’s a problem.

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial rules in hockey because no one seems to know what does and does not constitute goalie interference. What happened in Game 6 is a prime example. 

When even the NHL’s own rulebook seem to contradict itself, it is impossible for players, coaches, referees or fans to know what is and is not within the rules.

This is a problem and it is one the NHL needs to fix.

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