Minnesota Wild forward Jason Pominville is going through a rough stretch.  He’s had a hard time finding the back of the net, scoring on just 4.9% of his shots coming into Wednesday night’s game.  As luck would have it, Pominville would score a goal – not just any goal, but the game-winning goal – without even taking a shot on net.

As Wild defenseman Christian Folin fired a shot from the point, Pominville tried to get out of the way. In dodging the puck, he also deflected it past Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price.

Referee Mark Lemelin, positioned at the side of the net, called it a goal. He also conferred with the other officials, referee Wes McCauley and linesmen Don Henderson and Shane Heyer, who offered no reason to change the call on the ice.  An extensive video review found insufficient evidence to overturn the call.

As Pominville ducks out of the way, his stick – now perpendicular to the ice – makes contact with the puck.  According to Rule 78.5 (vi), the determining factor of height is where the puck makes contact with the stick relative to the crossbar.  If the puck hits the stick above the crossbar, the goal must be disallowed.

“[Pominville] didn’t think it was going to count,” said Zach Parise. “Luckily [referee Mark Lemelin] called it a goal on the ice. I think if they hadn’t, it probably wouldn’t have counted.”

Pominville called the goal a ‘fortunate bounce.’  “It was coming at my head,” he said. “I just decided to duck and it hit my stick. I’m not even sure where it hit.”

Neither was the NHL’s Situation Room.

Video replays were inconclusive in determining the height of the puck when it contacted Pominville’s raised stick. The call on the ice stood: good goal.

The Ref Got It Right: Why Pominville’s Goal Was a Good Goal

Based on the shot below, we can see that Pominville is stationed at the top of the crease. Based on that, we can use the midpoint of the crossbar as our approximate reference point for height.

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If we extrapolate those postions to a horizontal view, we can provide approximate boundaries.

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The horizontal lines show the approximate crossbar height at the far post, center,and near post.  If the deflection happened with the stick positioned in front of the near post, it would clearly be above the crossbar.   As shown above, Pominville is positioned just past the center of the crease.  The puck is clearly below both the midpoint and far post lines, indicating that it’s below the crossbar.  (Note that Price, centered in the crease, has the puck at or near eye-level. Based on the midpoint line, his eyes are below the crossbar.)

The reverse angle view, though it doesn’t show the near post, supports that theory. Note that this is slightly after the deflection and that the puck traveled towards the far post and over Price’s left shoulder before entering the net. Price, still centered, has the puck again at eye level.

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Star-Tribune photographer Carlos Gonzalez also caught a great shot of the puck, post-deflection.

Referee Mark Lemelin was able to correctly assess – with one look at full speed – that the puck was deflected below the crossbar.

While it’s a testament to the skills of the on-ice officials, plays like this where replays are inconclusive undermine the value of the NHL’s Situation Room.  Given the multitude of high-quality cameras stationed around the rink, along with other technical advances in sports tracking, it’s reasonable to expect the NHL to have conclusive data available.

Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser weighed in on the video review process:

Regardless of any further debate we might have on the legitimacy of this allowed goal …  additional cameras need to be strategically located to render an accurate decision when a puck is potentially contacted with a high-stick. The goal frame extends vertically four feet above the surface of the ice. The farther away from this reference point that contact with the puck is made, the more difficult it becomes to render an accurate judgment given the downward angle most camera shots provide.

Fraser also recommended the league take a look at some of the new technology used by broadcast teams to help break down plays and see if those advancements can be used to help the Situation Room.

Here’s the official ruling from the NHL:

At 12:10 of the second period in the Montreal Canadiens/Minnesota Wild game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play at the Montreal net.

Video review was inconclusive in determining whether Jason Pominville’s stick was at or below the level of the crossbar when he deflected the puck into the net. Therefore the referee’s call on the ice stands – good goal Minnesota