The Calgary Flames were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs after their potential go-ahead goal late in Game 5 was waved off for a distinct kicking motion.
Flames forward Blake Coleman was driving toward the Edmonton net. Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci made contact with Coleman, bumping him into goaltender Mike Smith.
Mikael Backlund’s shot on goal was stopped by Smith, the rebound bouncing across the crease, off Coleman’s skate and into the net.
Referee Eric Furlatt appeared to indicate a goal on the ice. The NHL’s Situation Room, though, wanted to take a second look.
Rule 49.2 covers kicked-in goals:
A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net with his skate/foot. A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who kicks a puck that deflects into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official.
A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player’s skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal. A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate shall be a legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident. The following should clarify deflections following a kicked puck that enters the goal:
(i) A kicked puck that deflects off the body of any player of either team (including the goalkeeper) shall be ruled no goal.
(ii) A kicked puck that deflects off the stick of any player (excluding the goalkeeper’s stick) shall be ruled a good goal.
(iii) A goal will be allowed when an attacking player kicks the puck and the puck deflects off his own stick and then into the net.
(iv) A goal will be allowed when a puck enters the goal after deflecting off an attacking player’s skate or deflects off his skate while he is in the process of stopping.
After a lengthy review, the goal was disallowed for a ‘distinct kicking motion’ on the play. The final ruling came from the Situation Room – not the on-ice officials. Who exactly made the call?
- Mike Murphy, NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations
- Colin Campbell, NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations
- Kris King, NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations
- Bill McCreary, Hall-of-Fame Referee and current NHL Officiating Manager
Murphy thought the call was clear-cut: no goal.
“Last night it was unanimous amongst the four of us: the puck was pushed over the line in intentional fashion,” said Murphy, according to Sportsnet. “You can stop a puck into the net and you can redirect it into the net, but you can’t drag or push a puck into the net. We saw him pushing the puck into the net.”
Campbell admitted it was a tough call.
“It’s as difficult a call as we’ve had the last few years,” said Campbell, who makes the final ruling, per Sportsnet’s Eric Francis. “We felt there was a distinct kicking motion and he propelled the puck deliberately into the net. […] We always try to draw upon consistency and, ‘is there any way we can allow this.’ Was he being pushed, was there a defection? We talked to [referee] Wes [McCauley] on the phone and after consulting with everyone we felt it was kicked in.”
We’ll be honest on this one. We thought the goal was going to stand.
So did Calgary’s Blake Coleman.
“I felt like I was in a battle and my understanding is you can direct the puck but you just can’t kick it,” Coleman said after the game. “I didn’t feel that I kicked it. But can’t go back and change it now. […] It’s unfortunate that was such a big part of the game and happened to influence the way it all went down.”
There’s no question Coleman’s skate contacted the puck — which looked like it was going in anyway. Campbell touched on the circumstances surrounding the contact, and that’s where we found the potential for the goal to stand.
Ceci’s contact appears to change Coleman’s trajectory slightly, causing his right leg to make contact with Smith’s goal pad. This pulls Coleman’s right skate off the ice, shifting his weight on to his left foot. It’s then that the puck contacts the skate.
Can we conclusively say that Coleman intended to direct the puck and propelled it with his left foot, with his right skate still off the ice?
We can’t. The NHL felt they could.
That’s despite permitting goals that displayed a far more ‘distinct’ kicking motion earlier this season, like this one by Colorado’s Devon Toews:
Or this goal – which stood – scored by Winnipeg’s Nate Thompson against the Flames:
The possible differentiation is whether Coleman propelled the puck, or merely redirected it. For us, that kicking motion – if any – was insufficient to overturn the goal.
Edmonton went on to win the game 5-4 in overtime, ending the Flames’ playoff run.
Referees for the game were Wes McCauley (#4) and Eric Furlatt (#27); linesmen were Scott Cherrey (#50) and Bryan Pancich (#94).