What’s an overtime hockey game without a little controversy?

San Jose captain Joe Pavelski nearly won it for the Sharks just 7:34 into overtime.  Unfortunately for the boys in teal, referee Gord Dwyer immediately waved off Pavelski’s valiant scoring attempt, ruling that the puck was batted in with a glove.  There were two issues on the play that required consideration, both via separate reviews.

First, did the puck cross the line legally?

Pavelski gloved the puck down out of mid-air before batting it in with his stick just before it crossed the goal line. NHL Hockey Operations reviewed the play, confirming that the puck crossed the line legally. Pavelski successfully played it with his stick before it crossed the line.  

Next, was there goaltender interference on the play?

Normally, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer would need to issue a Coach’s Challenge for the second review on the interference. However, in the final minute of the game or any time in overtime, a review is automatically initiated for any play eligible for a Coach’s Challenge. 

It’s obvious that there was contact between Pavelski and Rinne, with the Sharks forward laying across the goaltender as the puck crossed the line. Dwyer’s challenge in the review was to determine who initiated that contact, including whether a shove from Nashville’s Paul Gaustad was a factor. 

Sharks Predators - Pavelski OT Goal Waved Off

The NHL rulebook covers the situation in Rule 69, which says, in part:

Goals should be disallowed … if 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.

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.

Did Pavelski make a reasonable effort to avoid contact?  Referees Gord Dwyer and Eric Furlatt felt he did not. 

Given the time and space available, we’re inclined to agree. Pavelski’s path was hardly altered by Gaustad’s push. There’s an argument to be made that the timing of the shove, combined with Pavelski leaving his feet to jump for the puck, left him slightly off-balance. Even without that push, though, it’s likely Pavelski’s momentum would’ve carried him into the goaltender.  Pavelski remained on his feet, making a play for the puck rather than stopping his forward progress. Instead, he collided with Preds blueliner Shea Weber, who had established position at the top of the crease. Pavelski caught Weber’s right leg and went crashing into Rinne. 

The goaltender did not have an opportunity to make the save, and the actions of Gaustad and Weber were not significant enough to cause the contact between Pavelski and Rinne. 

 “Upon further review,” announced referee Gord Dwyer, “there’s goaltender intereference on the play. No goal.”

Referee Gord Dwyer

Here’s the official ruling from the NHL:

At 7:34 of overtime in the Sharks/Predators game, the Situation Room initiated a review under the terms of a Coach’s Challenge to review the “Interference on the Goalkeeper” decision that resulted in a “no goal” call.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed that San Jose’s Joe Pavelski made incidental contact with Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Rinne from doing his job in the crease.

Therefore the original call stands – no goal San Jose Sharks.

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer disagreed with the call.  

“I don’t understand,” DeBoer said. “I guess incidental contact is [when] you’re cross-checked from behind while you are in the air and you have the opportunity to stop. I guess that’s what it is. You know what, that rule has been clear as mud to every coach in the league all year, so why should it be different tonight?”

You can’t blame DeBoer for being frustrated.  In addition to dealing with a highly-subjective rule, his team already lost one goal this postseason due to a questionable call.

“We were pretty positive it was a goal,” said Sharks forward Logan Couture. “Pavs hit it with his stick and he got cross-checked pretty hard from Gaustad. The explanation was that he had time to stop. “

Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said of his disallowed game-winner, “[I was] just coming in, following the play, the puck comes [to me], [I] get it down, there’s guys on me. Feels like I’m getting pushed and hammered.”

“It was called off on the ice, and I felt pretty comfortable that it’s not going to be a goal,” said Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. “[We] missed a bullet there, so that was nice.”

The Preds dodged that one, and a few more chances in the multiple extra sessions, before Nashville’s Mike Fisher ultimately won the game in the third overtime.  The series heads back to San Jose tied at two games apiece.