The Ottawa Senators are desperate for points in their bid to snag one of the two Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and with the Montreal Canadiens holding one of those spots, there was a lot at stake in Saturday night's match between the two clubs. It had the feel of a playoff game.
But not just any playoff game. Last year's Game 7 between the Bruins and the Leafs, specifically. The one where the Leafs held a comfortable, 4-1 lead, then watched it slip away in a matter of minutes. That's exactly what the Senators did here: leading 4-1 with under four minutes to go in the game, Ottawa watched as the Canadiens chipped away at the deficit.
Lars Eller scored at 16:38. 4-2. Brian Gionta scored at 17:56. 4-3. Finally, David Desharnais tied it up at 19:59, and if we're rounding to the nearest minute, it was at 20:00. Desharnais tucked it home with three-tenths of the second to go:
He probably had. But not during the shot. Lehner gets completely twisted around not by Vanek, but by P.K. Subban, who looks off what would have been a last-second shot to find a wide-open Desharnais for an even laster last-second shot.
Still, the Senators were incensed by the way the officials swallowed their whistles on the play, and considering some of the phantom goalie interference calls we've seen this year, it's amazing that this one stood.
Nothing that followed made Ottawa any happier with the officiating.
They were even more incensed when referee Eric Furlatt had no intent to blow on Francis Bouillon's winner as well.
After stopping a Max Pacioretty shot from the short-angle, Lehner felt he'd frozen the puck. But play continued, and while the Senators waited for the whistle to blow, the puck squirted to Bouillon, who buried it into an empty net for the 5-4 win.
Looking at the replay, it's possible that Furlatt actually saw the puck sitting in front of Lehner's pad, not properly frozen. If so, this is a level of vision and poise we've come to not expect from whistle-happy NHL officials, so our condolences to the Senators on, again, suffering an unexpected right call.
Although Jason Spezza claims the explanation he was given was a little different:
MacLean says the explanation given for the winning goal to Jason Spezza was "it was too loud."
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 16, 2014
Rough. If only the NHL had invested in some sort of small, whistling device that, when utilized, emitted a sound so shrill that it could be heard over even the loudest crowds. If only.
The Senators were furious. Lehner screamed at the officials, his face turning a deep red. Bobby Ryan charged after Furlatt and had to be held back. Via @bonksmullet:
Kudos to the officials for keeping Ryan back here. The Senators' chances of not making the playoffs sunk to 89% with this loss -- which probably added to their ire -- but losing Ryan to a suspension, say, would have sunk them even lower. That said, he sure seems pretty intense here. Just saying.
Even Senators.com made what could be read as a minor protest of the officiating with this cheeky headline on the game:
If only Liam Neeson played in Ottawa. He'd get that point back in no time.