Oh boy, did the St. Louis Blues get jobbed by the officials on Friday night.
Captain David Backes was given a match penalty at 9:38 of the third period for a hit to the head of Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kent Huskins, resulting in his ejection and a 5-minute major penalty.
Pavel Datsyuk scored during the ensuing power play for the 4-3 lead; the Wings eventually won the Central Division showdown, 5-3, thanks to a Henrik Zetterberg hat trick.
One tiny, little problem: Replays showed that Backes never made contact with Huskins’ head. Backes made contact with the chest.
Good lord what a blown call.
Backes’s body is basically square with the numbers on Huskins’ arm. A violent hit, to be sure, but he makes more contact with the waist than the head.
It was a brutal call that undeniably changed the dynamics in the third period, especially with the Red Wings having knotted the thing up just over five minutes earlier.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he couldn't comment on the hit because he didn't see it. “All I can tell you is he was getting a penalty and going off,'' Babcock said. “ I haven’t seen it so I can’t tell you anything about it.''
The match penalty calls for an automatic review by the NHL.
“I'm not going to comment on that,'' Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It was a big turning point and it turned out being the turning point of the game.''
Overall, there were complains from both fan bases throughout the game about officials Ian Walsh and Chris Lee, who called seven minor penalties in the first period. But this penalty on Backes is the kind of over-reactive, hair-trigger call that makes one think that over-protection of the players can sometimes trump good judgement. An embarrassment, given the stakes.
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