The New York Rangers got off to a strong start in Game 2, jumping out to a 2-0 lead.  While the Kings closed the gap, the Rangers regained their two-marker advantage, going up 4-2 after two.

The Comeback Kings kept pressing.  They cut the Rangers’ lead again, this time on a controversial goal from Dwight King.

Dwight King clearly makes contact with Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist within the crease prior to the puck deflecting past him and into the net.   Lundqvist sprung up after the play and chased down referee Dan O’Halloran for an explanation.

“He said the puck had already passed me. I don’t buy it,” said Lundqvist.  “I don’t expect a penalty on the play, but they need to blow the whistle. A goalie can’t move when you have a guy like that on top of you. It’s such an important play of the game, and I don’t buy the explanation [from the officials].”

Rangers' Lundqvist talk to referee Dan O'Halloran

Rangers’ Lundqvist talk to referee Dan O’Halloran

O’Halloran moved the game along after the whistle.   While goaltender interference is not eligible for video review, he could’ve conferred with his on-ice crew just to make sure someone didn’t see it differently. He didn’t call over referee Wes McCauley or linesmen Derek Amell and Brad Kovachik to discuss what their takes on the play.  (Not that he has to, but at a critical juncture of the Stanley Cup Finals…)   He gave the scoring on the goal and immediately headed to center ice to drop the puck for the ensuing faceoff.

“I’m extremely disappointed on the call — or non-call,” said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “You’ve got to be consistent. In the second period, we get called for a penalty [on Ranger forward Benoit Pouliot for goalie interference] and the puck isn’t even there.  They score a goal and I can’t even move.  It’s extremely frustrating.  After that, it’s a different game.”

Lundqvist Distracted?

Nearly seven minutes into the third, with the Rangers hanging on to their 4-3 lead, Lundqvist took advantage of a Rangers’ timeout on an icing play to again talk with O’Halloran.  Instead of skating to the bench, getting a drink, and getting himself focused, the Rangers’ netminder continued to discuss the missed interference call.

Less than a minute later, on a play right off the ensuing faceoff, the Kings tied the game.  One could easily blame the non-call on the King goal for distracting the usually-unflappable Lundqvist.  Instead of putting it behind him, he was still fighting the call, which may have cost the Rangers the game.


Kings forward Dwight King scores on Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist in Game 2

Kings forward Dwight King scores on Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist in Game 2 (@myregularface)

“That’s a wrist shot I’m just going to reach out for, and I can’t move,” Lundqvist said. “It’s a different game after that. Such an important play of the game, and you know …  They’ve just got to be better.”

The Goaltender Interference Rule

From the NHL Rulebook:

69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper

This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgement of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.

The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

69.3 Contact Inside the Goal Crease

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.

If a goalkeeper, in the act of establishing his position within his goal crease, initiates contact with an attacking player who is in the goal crease, and this results in an impairment of the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

If an attacking player establishes a significant position within the goal crease, so as to obstruct the goalkeeper’s vision and impair his ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed. For this purpose, a player “establishes a significant position within the crease” when, in the Referee’s judgment, his body, or a substantial portion thereof, is within the goal crease for more than an instantaneous period of time.

The best defense for O’Halloran’s call – or non-call, as it were – on the play is that he had to have determined from his vantage point that Ryan McDonagh had pushed King into his goaltender.

“You give him the inside,” said McDonagh after the game. “If he goes to the inside, he’s got to be running into your goalie. That’s kind of the way I was thinking about it. He chose to go to the inside, but the ref obviously didn’t think he was interfering.”

“When I looked back, there was a guy on Hank and Hank was on the ground,” said McDonagh’s defensive partner Dan Girardi. “On the replay, it looked like there was some action there.”

Coach Vigneault was very succinct in his post-game comments.  When asked if the goal should’ve been disallowed, he advised, “Ask the NHL.”   The Blueshirts’ head coach elaborated a bit after the team returned to New York, saying, “All I can say is, they came back from a two-goal deficit, and their third goal — you can look at it any way you want — that shouldn’t have been a goal, in my opinion.”

Around the League

Craig Button on TSN’s That’s Hockey 2Nite: “On that particular play, clearly goaltender interference. I’m not saying it should’ve been a penalty. No goal, take the faceoff outside […] Unbelieveable that this goal was allowed to stand.” Dan O’Halloran can explain to Henrik Lundqvist whatever he wants to explain. Blown call.”

Here’s another look at the goal from inside the net:

Kerry Fraser’s Take

Long-time NHL Kerry Fraser broke down the play, looking at the positioning of King and McDonagh before the shot and at the time of contact in the crease:

In an email to Jeff Klein  of the New York Times, Fraser provided his interpretation:

O’Halloran would have most likely recognized that King initiated the contact on Lundqvist on his own and not through the actions of the defending player. There would be no guarantee that the referee would impose a minor penalty on Dwight King, as he should, but more to the point, the goal would have been disallowed, whether the contact was deemed deliberate or incidental.

Time for Expanded Video Replay?

Proponents of expanding video replay will use this as prime example of why the NHL needs to include goaltender interference in what’s eligible to be reviewed.   Henrik Lundqvist was in favor of that idea. “Why not? Why not have video replay [for goaltender interference]?” he asked.  “We don’t have to have two different calls in the same situation in the same game.”

He also had comments for the NHL’s Competition Committee, who are meeting this week. “Just be consistent with [goaltender interference]. If they don’t call that, you can’t call what they called in the second period. Benny [Pouliot]  got pushed in and tried to avoid [Kings goalie Jonathan Quick], and gets two minutes, and the puck is not even there. And then we have the same play and they score.  like I said, I dont think its a penalty, but you’ve got to stop the play if the goalie can’t move in his crease.”

Comeback Kings

There’s no telling whether the Kings would’ve come back anyway. They seem to have a knack for comebacks this postseason.  They’d certainly have kept the pressure on. Maybe Los Angeles would have tied it up, but this goal shouldn’t have helped them get there.

“That’s hockey,” said Lundqvist.  “One play can change everything. I felt like that play did.”


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