Confusion reigns on disallowed Caps goal

In what was yet another come-from-behind game involving the Washington Capitals, the no-goal call against them in the second period was a tough pill to swallow after managing to tie the game late in the third period, but eventually falling in overtime 6-5 to the Montreal Canadiens. Here's video of the entire bizarre sequence:

You have to watch the video a couple times just to believe that you're actually seeing 6'7, 250 pound Hal Gill(notes) fly several feet backwards after a hit from Alex Ovechkin(notes).

As you see, there was much confusion on the ice and in the TSN booth about exactly why the goal call on the ice was overturned. Both Montreal and Washington fans watching at home and inside Bell Centre were kept in the dark about the ruling as there was no announcement from the referee and play was restarted. At least Bruce Boudreau received an explanation, as he told Tarik el-Bashir of the Washington Post:

"I wouldn't have been upset if they had [initially] called it no goal," Boudreau said. "But they called it a goal. So I didn't think they had enough [evidence] to over turn it. But the ref told me Price didn't have a chance to play the puck."

So according to the NHL Rulebook, why was the call made??

From Rule 69.6 of the Official NHL Rulebook:

69.6 Rebounds and Loose Pucks - In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.

In the event that a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck by an attacking player after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed. If applicable, appropriate penalties will be assessed.

In the event that the puck is under a player in or around the crease area (deliberately or otherwise), a goal cannot be scored by pushing this player together with the puck into the goal. If applicable, the appropriate penalties will be assessed, including a penalty shot if deemed to be covered in the crease deliberately.

This doesn't speak to this exact situation with a defender being pushed into his own goaltender, but the spirit of the rule says that Price was unable to do his job and prevent the scoring opportunity.

Robert Lefebvre of Habs Eyes on the Prize digs a little deeper and explains why Ovechkin wasn't given an interference penalty on the play:

"What is most mystifying to many is that if Ovechkin did interfere with Price as was judged, why was there not a penalty call? It's a good question, and the answer is a simple one. A minor penalty cannot be called once a play is over. In other words, since the whistle had blown and the play had ended, a penalty could have only been called against Ovechkin if an infraction had been signaled at the time of the incident.

Also curious is how a goal can be disallowed after an official points out that it is a goal on the ice. That answer is equally simple. The on ice official's only task in judging goals is to signify that the puck has indeed fully crossed the goal line. Again, in other words, what goes on beyond the parameter of the puck crossing the line can be brought into play after the fact."

As Gretz pointed out last night at Fanhouse, Capitals fans are left to wonder how that goal last night could be called off, yet Sami Kapanen's(notes) tally during Game 7 first-round series with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2008 NHL Playoffs counted. On the play, Patrick Thoresen(notes) checked Shaone Morrisonn(notes) into goaltender Cristobal Huet(notes), leaving an empty net for Kapanen to score. The NHL's official explanation on that goal was that "no Philadelphia player makes contact with Washington goaltender Huet (Rule 69). This play is not reviewable."

It will be interesting to see if the NHL releases an official explanation on the goal today.

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