In a night where nothing seemed to go right for the Caps, when they did finally manage to get on the board and take the first step towards a rally against the San Jose Sharks, a coach's challenge ended that rally before it could even begin. San Jose goalie Martin Jones shutout the Caps in a 5-0 win on Tuesday with an assist by referee Tim Peel who disallowed the Caps' only goal of the night after a coach's challenge for goalie interference.
"I was going, 'Really?' That's pretty light on that side," said head coach Barry Trotz.
The coach's challenge is new to the NHL this season. If a team still has a timeout, coaches can challenge goals asserting that the scoring team was either offsides or interfered with the goalie. San Jose coach Peter DeBoer put his challenge to good use on Tuesday to deny the Caps their only goal.
"It took a little air out of our balloon for sure," Matt Niskanen said. "That's the new thing though. They get to have a second look at it and overall that's a good rule I think."
With the Caps trailing 3-0 in the second period, it appeared as if they had pulled one back as Dmitry Orlov rifled a shot from the slot past Jones. DeBoer, however, begged to differ and challenged the play asserting that Jay Beagle had interfered with the San Jose netminder.
The play seemed innocent. As Orlov was winding up his shot, Beagle skated from Jones' left and brushed past the goalie as he positioned himself for the screen. Whatever contact there was between Beagle and Jones was minimal. Goalies are usually very vocal when they believe they have been interfered with, but even Jones had no reaction after the goal was scored.
Yet, after the review Peel ruled that Jones had indeed been interfered with on the play and waived off the goal.
The league released this statement on the play via its Situation Room Blog:
After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee determined that Washington's Jay Beagle interfered with Jones before the puck crossed the goal line. According to Rule 78.7, "The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL' call on the ice is that the Referee, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Toronto Video Room, determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to ‘Interference on the Goalkeeper,' as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4."
Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Washington Capitals.
But was this goaltender interference?
The only contact was a slight brush of the goalie glove which Jones wears on his left hand. The shot went to Jones' right meaning his ability to move or stop the shot was not impaired at all. The sticking point, however, was likely the contact itself.
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 the goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed."
"To the letter of the law it was a good call, I guess," Trotz said. "I don't totally agree, but because it went against me obviously."
Overhead views of the play show that Beagle did in fact contact Jones in the crease, which by rule is goalie interference. But, clearly a situation such as this was not what was meant by the goalie interference rule or why the coach's challenge was implemented.
"You get bumped like that on 10 plays a game," Braden Holtby said. "I think the ruling was supposed to be put in there for the stuff that the ref can't see that's blatant. I think that's a clean hockey play.
"If it happened to me I wouldn't even think about complaining about it. I hope that's not the standard. I hope that goalies have to still battle a bit for position."
No one could argue this was why the Caps lost. They were outplayed from the opening faceoff, they took three penalties in the game's first 20 minutes and they were without both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. There's certainly no guarantee that had that goal been allowed, the Caps would have been able to rally.
But there was no guarantee that they would not have either.
If this Peel's decision is a reflection of the standard referees will now hold skaters to on challenges, this also could have much larger implications outside of this one game. If this is how closely the officials are going to follow the letter of the law, expect to see a lot more challenges throughout the NHL.
When asked if he learned something from his first experience with a coach's challenge, Trotz answered, "Yeah, any incidental contact, just call it. That's the standard that seems to be set now."
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