The Capitals walked away with two points after a win in Minnesota, but the game was not without controversy.
The Wild tied the game at 4 with 27 seconds remaining in the third period as noted Caps killer Eric Staal netted the game-tying goal. The NHL Situation Room, however, initiated a review for off-side after the goal. It appeared to many as if Minnesota forward Jason Zucker was off-side as Jared Spurgeon entered the zone.
You can watch a replay in the video above. Here's a look at the play:
This view appears to clearly show that the puck is completely over the blue line, but Zucker is still in the offensive zone. That would make this play off-side. The NHL, however, disagreed. After the review, the goal stood as called.
Here is the explanation from the NHL Situation Room blog:
At 19:33 of the third period in the Capitals/Wild game, the Situation Room initiated a review under the terms of a Coach's Challenge to examine whether Minnesota was offside prior to Eric Staal's goal.
After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Jason Zucker tagged up at the blueline, nullifying the delayed off-side, before the puck touched Jared Spurgeon's stick inside the attacking zone.
Another way to explain this is to compare it to a delayed off-side call. When the puck is in the offensive zone, the play is not immediately blown dead even if players are in an off-side position so long as the puck is not touched by the offensive team. Since Spurgeon did not touch the puck once it passed the blue line until after Zucker touched up, the play was deemed on-side. This is consistent with how the NHL has been calling similar plays all season.
First, good on Spurgeon for having the presence of mind to wait until Zucker tagged up. That was a very heads-up play to take the puck in and wait for his teammate to get back on-side.
Now that we've got that out of the way, this is an incredibly literal, incredibly stupid interpretation of the rule. No one outside of the state of Minnesota could argue that Spurgeon did not have "possession" of the puck when it crossed the blue line. When the delayed off-side rule was conceived, I doubt it was made with situations like this in mind where a player carries the puck into the offensive zone and then hovers over it until his teammate touches up. Possession, to me, has never required constant contact of puck to stick.
This seems like an unintended consequence of the off-side review. When you begin reviewing these plays frame by frame, the interpretation of the rule becomes super specific to the point that common sense goes out the window. So now, even if a player has "possession," it doesn't count unless the puck is directly touching the stick.
Could anyone argue that Spurgeon did not possess the puck? Of course not. But since he didn't touch the puck, the play stood.
And it nearly cost the Caps.
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