Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff summed up his feelings on the officiating of Saturday’s game against the Red Wings in one word: ‘Inexcusable.’

The Stars led 6-4 just past the midpoint of the third period. Detroit cut the Dallas lead in half with just under seven minutes to play in regulation.  It was the tying goal, though, that drew the ire of the Stars.

Wings forward Justin Abdelkader was stationed at the top of the crease. As Stars blueliner John Klingberg tried to defend, he was bumped by Detroit’s Gustav Nyqvist. Klingberg collided with Abdelkader, knocking him off balance. Abdelkader then made contact with Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen with a two-handed shove. With Lehtonen down and unable to make a save, Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk fired the puck into a mostly-vacant net.

The goal was allowed to stand.  Goaltender interference is not eligible for video review; it must be called on the ice.

From the NHL Rulebook:

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

There’s no question that there was contact with the goaltender.  The pile-up of bodies in front of the net made it difficult to determine responsibility for positioning. If Abdelkader wanted to retreat out of the crease, he may have been unable to because of the pressure from behind by Cody Eakin.  If we give the Detroit forward the benefit of the doubt and say that he was thrown off balance by the low bump from Klingberg, we still have to observe that – unintentional or not – contact was made with Lehtonen.   If that’s the case, a penalty may be unwarranted, but the whistle should be blown for incidental contact.

Per Rule 69.1:

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.

The goal stood.  The Wings went on to win the game 7-6 in overtime.

Ruff Responds

Stars head coach Lindy Ruff blasted the officials after the game on the controversial game-tying goal:

“Goligoski had a stick between his legs and was dumped, and our goaltender gets crosschecked into the net,” said Ruff. “It’s inexcusable. There’s no explanation — it’s inexcusable. It ruined a hell of a hockey game. Bottom line, I wish I had a red flag to throw.”


“I got pushed into the net,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. “It’s pretty frustrating. Stuff like that shouldn’t happen. It’s weird that they can look at some things on video tape and others they cannot.”

The league has considered expanding video review.  This season, they’ve been monitoring situations exactly like this – offsides and goaltender interference – to try to determine the possible impact of adding those two categories to video review.  Currently, reviews are limited to more non-subjective items – location of the puck, time on the clock, height of the stick on a deflected puck, and determination of whether the net was on its moorings.

“You have to shake it off,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn, with echoes of Taylor Swift, of the disputed goal. “There is nothing you can do about it there. [The referees are] not going to change their mind. That’s about it.”

Dallas Stars Management Speaks Out

With their playoff hopes on the line, Stars management spoke out about the game, specifically the replay process.

“I just think that if the refs miss something, they should be given the opportunity to see what they missed,” Stars president Jim Lites said. “You can say it’s a judgment call, but these are the same people who are making that judgment call, and they should be given all of the information.”

Stars General Manager Jim Nill agreed:

“Because of video replays, everyone can figure out what has happened in the arena and at home. We know instantly if it’s the right or wrong call. The speed of the game is tough for the referees, because they have to make a call in a split second. But should there be a huddle by the penalty box on a goal like that to just take a look and see if it should be a goal?

“It’s something we have to figure out.”

“I think most people on the replay [of the game-tying goal] will tell you it was not just incidental contact, but goaltender interference,” Lites said. “If they missed that, they should get a chance to look again. We’re not saying do it on every play, but certainly on key plays.”

This was obviously a key play in a critical game for the Dallas Stars, one that the team would love to have had the referees review.  You can be sure that this will be on the agenda for the next NHL Board of Governors meeting.

Referees for the game were Paul Devorksi and Ian Walsh. Linesmen were Jean Morin and Kiel Murchison.

Full game highlights are below: