Connor McDavid was frustrated that Edmonton’s overtime game-winner was wiped off the board. When he put one past the goalie in the shootout, he offered a suggestion to the officials.
“Go upstairs!” McDavid yelled at referee Steve Kozari, implying that the league might need to review what was an obviously good goal.
Unimpressed, referee Steve Kozari hit McDavid with a 10-minute misconduct for abuse of officials.
Typically, you’d expect a minor penalty, though it’s a moot point with the two teams in the shootout. From NHL Rule 39:
Minor Penalty – A minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions: Any player who challenges or disputes the ruling of an official [or] any identifiable player who uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures directed at any on or off-ice official.
Misconduct Penalty – Misconduct penalties shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions: Any player who persists in the use of obscene, profane or abusive language towards any on or off-ice official for which he has already been assessed a minor or bench minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. […] In general, participants displaying this type of behaviour are assessed a minor penalty, then a misconduct penalty and then a game misconduct penalty if they persist.
In this case, the officials went right to the misconduct. Again, the only difference was in padding McDavid’s penalty stats – and possibly hurting his chances at a Lady Byng. The Oilers’ center had only 12 penalty minutes going into last night’s game, with just one minor penalty taken in the prior 16 games.
“It was frustration, which I probably shouldn’t have done, obviously,” McDavid said after the game. “That’s the way it goes. I was frustrated. I thought it wasn’t the right call. They are just trying to do their jobs and what is best for the game, but you don’t always have to agree with it. Obviously, I shouldn’t have done that, but it was frustrating.”
“I did what I did,” he added. “I hope they’re not too upset with me.”
While the refs may have been, his teammates sure weren’t.
“It shows the competitive side of him,” said Milan Lucic. “You never see him have outbursts like that but sometimes it comes to a boiling point and you can’t help yourself.”
McDavid’s goal was followed by a save by Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot on Calgary’s Sean Monahan, securing the shootout victory. The Oilers, though, nearly won it 1:16 into overtime on a goal that was overturned after review.
Players from both teams had already left the ice. Rittich slammed his stick on the ice, shattering it and picking up a 10-minute misconduct.
Ref Steve Kozari brought them all back with five little words: “The play is under review.”
All plays eligible for a Coach’s Challenge – offside and goaltender interference – are automatically reviewed by Hockey Ops in overtime and in the final minute of regulation. A second look at the play caused referee Kendrick Nicholson to overturn his initial call and wave off the goal. The official determined that McDavid ‘prevented [Flames goaltender David Rittich] from doing his job in the crease,’ per league statement.
Rule 69.1 states, in part:
Goals should be disallowed only 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. […] 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.
McDavid’s skate clearly made contact with Rittich’s pad in the goal crease. The officials were likely deliberating whether the goaltender had an opportunity to re-establish position prior to the goal being scored, or if that contact prevented him from playing his position. Based on the ruling, they felt the contact pulled Rittich out of position, rendering him unable to make the save.
As with all Coach’s Challenges for goaltender interference, the call on the review is made by the on-ice officials.
“I know [the refs] are trying to do the right things always, but I think the players want black and white, that’s all,” said McDavid.
“We got the win, that’s what’s important.”