The linesmen got it right. The Situation Room, though, needed a review.
The NHL has admitted its review team made a mistake in disallowing the Buffalo Sabres’ game-tying goal against the New York Rangers.
From NHL VP Colin Campbell:
“The original call on the ice, ‘good goal,’ should have stood because video replay could not definitively determine that the stick of Buffalo Player Victor Olofsson touched the puck before Rasmus Dahlin tagged up. In instances when video replay cannot definitively determine a play, League policy is to stay with the original call on the ice.”
The play happened in the final minutes of Friday’s game in Buffalo. The Sabres appeared to tie the game with 57 seconds remaining. Since the goal happened in the final minute of regulation, the league automatically reviewed the play for situations eligible for a Coach’s Challenge: goaltender interference, offside, or a missed stoppage.
Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin was clearly in the offensive zone prior to the puck completely crossing the blue line. As such, this was treated like a delayed offside. Sabres forward Victor Olofsson pushed the puck over the line, but appeared to hold off touching the puck until Dahlin had tagged up.
The NHL’s Situation Room ruled that Olofsson played the puck in the attacking zone, putting Dahlin offside and killing the play.
Delayed offside is clearly defined in the rulebook. Similar situations have taken place, with the league consistently applying the standard that play may continue until the attacking player touches the puck. From rule 83.3:
If, during the course of the delayed off-side, any member of the attacking team touches the puck, attempts to gain possession of a loose puck, forces the defending puck carrier further back into his own zone, or who is about to make physical contact with the defending puck carrier, the Linesman shall stop play for the off-side violation.
If Olofsson doesn’t touch it before Dahlin clears, play continues. If he does, it’s offside.
The Rangers, whose bench was on the blueline where the controversial call took place, were confident the goal would be disallowed.
“As soon as they entered the zone, the video guys said [it was offside],” said New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant. “So you weren’t really feeling the pressure when they did score, because we knew [it wouldn’t count].”
Sabres coach Don Granato reportedly asked the officials to confirm whether Dahlin had tagged up, but was told the league had already made their decision.
“They’ve got camera angles, and they’re on it,” Granato said. “That was my question to the officials, and you move on. My job is to make sure our team is ready and I can’t be distracted by that.”
It’s a tough call. You’ve got a black puck with a black stick, so without the perfect camera angle, it’s a challenge to differentiate between the two enough to judge contact. Based on the league’s admission, they effectively weren’t able to do so. The best viewpoint was that of the linesman, who hopped up on the boards to avoid Olofsson right at the blueline. He did not whistle the play down for offside.
When asked about the league’s admission of their error, Granato had little to say.
“No real reaction,” Granato responded. “It’s hard for me to comment on it. You guys asked me about it after the game, and I’m going to tell you my approach to it is, you can’t play the ‘poor me’ card. You just can’t.”
“There’s certain things that are out of your control and you just play. You just trust that the league knows what they’re doing and you move on.”
The Sabres, unfortunately, moved on with a loss, dropping the game 2-1 to the Rangers.
The NHL has since removed the Situation Room video and review from their website, as well as from their official statistics on Coach’s Challenges.
Referees for the game were Justin St. Pierre and Kyle Rehman. Linesmen were Mitch Hunt and Jesse Marquis.