TAMPA, Fla. — If it was an illegal line change, it wasn’t the first time a team had gotten away with it in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In fact, many will remember that the tampa bay lightning they got away with it last year.
But an emotional Lightning coach Jon Cooper made Wednesday night’s possibly missed call a focal point after it came at the most important moment: in overtime to help the Colorado Avalanche he wins 3–2 and takes a 3–1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, saying his team “should still be playing” rather than digest a detrimental loss that severely affects their hopes of winning three times.
nazem kadri dramatically capped off her accelerated comeback from thumb surgery on the disputed play, floating a beauty past andrey vasilevsky 12 minutes, 2 seconds into overtime, at the end of an 11-second turn Cooper hinted that the avalanche should have been called, with too many men on the ice.
All five allowed skaters were on the ice when Kadri scored, but replays show the Avs capitalized on at least one generous line change and perhaps one illegal line change at most.
Nazem Kadri scores the most important goal of his career pic.twitter.com/58eKHjWEZs
—Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) June 23, 2022
Kadri was on the ice for four seconds and had possession of the puck along the blue line when the man he traded for, an idle Nathan Mackinnon — I finally got to the bank. Appears in the replay that Kadri thought she was changing for Valery Nichushkin, who ended up staying on the ice and immersed in the play. MacKinnon was still on the ice on the bench along the blue line when Kadri skated into the offensive zone with the puck.
Kadri’s goal put the Avalanche one win away from their third Stanley Cup title and first since 2001, with Game 5 in Denver on Friday night.
“You’ll see what I mean when you see the winning goal. My heart breaks for the players because we probably should still be playing.”
Jon Cooper only answered one question after the game and was clearly not happy about the Avalanche’s game-winning goal in overtime. pic.twitter.com/g6DAwp475i
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 23, 2022
“I love this league,” Cooper said in a stream-of-consciousness soliloquy that he eventually cut short before leaving the podium. “It is the best league in the world. The people who run it are amazing. All about it. It’s like a dream come true for me, especially being a Canadian kid, growing up and everything that’s happened. … You know, I’ve been a part of some heartbreaking losses and losses from the teams that eliminated us and I’ve been with a group that just fights, fights, fights. And they battled their way to a third straight Stanley Cup Final. And in a peak era … when it’s so tough and the rules are stacked against you because the league wants parity.
“And I love that about the league. And that’s what makes it more difficult. And look at this team, what they’ve been through and the battles they’ve had. And we are all in this together: players, coaches, everyone. But this one is going to hurt a lot more than the others, just because it was acquiring… it was potentially… I don’t know. It’s difficult to me. It’s going to be hard for me to talk. I’m going to have to talk. … You’ll see what I mean when you see the winning goal. And my heart breaks for the players. Because we should probably still be playing. I will be available (Thursday).”
This is the most damning footage I have seen so far.
When Nazem Kadri (the game-winning scorer) jumps onto the ice, MacKinnon takes over 5 seconds to get back to the bench and is clearly over 5 feet away. pic.twitter.com/9ede4C6ZCU
— Kailey Mizelle (@KaileyMizelle) June 23, 2022
the NHL he was aware of the controversy after the match and spoke to all four umpires on the ice. Any one of the four can make the call. In a statement delivered to the athleticthe league said “a penalty for too many men on the ice is a judgment call.”
“After the game, Hockey Operations met with all four officials as is their normal protocol,” the league said. “When discussing the winning goal, each of the four referees warned that they did not see a situation of too many men on the ice in the play. This call is not subject to video review by either Hockey Ops or the officials on the ice.”
According to the NHL Rule Book, players may be changed at any time during the game, as long as they are within five feet of the bench and not in the game when the change is made. “At the discretion of the officials on the ice, if a substitute player enters the ice before his teammate is within the five-foot limit of the players’ bench (and thus clearly causes his team to have too many players), then a bench can impose a light penalty. When a player retires from the ice surface and is within the five-foot limit of his player bench, and his substitute is on the ice, then the retiring player shall be considered off the ice. If in the course of making a substitution, either the player entering the game or the player retiring plays the puck or controls or makes any physical contact with an opposing player while both players involved in the substitution are on the ice, then the infraction of will be called “too many men on the ice”.
Two former NHL referees contacted by the athletic those who examined the video said that in their opinion this play was not too many men. A former linesman said that while it’s close, loose line changes happen all the time and very few umpires would have screwed up a play like this in overtime. He also noted that Lightning had seven players on the ice, including two players on the bench, such as MacKinnon, and the players who came on for them were also in the game.
To add to the confusion after the game, the game’s opening sheet had six Avalanche skaters on the ice for the game-winning goal, the sixth being a defenseman. erik johnson. Replays show, however, that it was actually an honest and coincidental mistake because Johnson was never on the ice before or during the game-winning goal.
Ironically, last postseason, the Lightning Palate of Ondrej scored a goal in Game 2 of Tampa Bay’s playoff series against the New York Islanders with seven players on the play. The referees failed and the goal counted.
Lightning had too many men on the go-ahead goal. Barry Trotz after watching the replay: “Seven damn guys. There’s seven guys on the ice. On the damn goal. It’s right there.” pic.twitter.com/CsLyoNq9c6
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) June 16, 2021
While the ending of Wednesday’s Game 4 was controversial, the reality is that the Avalanche rallied from two one-goal deficits, with goals from MacKinnon and Andrew Cogliano, and they were by far the better team in overtime. They outshot Tampa Bay 10-3 in overtime, and that’s not including a post hit from arturi lehkonen and a crossbar hit by Bowen–Byram.
“I’m not quite sure what he’s thinking, why he shouldn’t have told,” Kadri said when told about Cooper’s comments. “That confuses me a bit. The puck hit the bottom of the net, end of story. I’m not sure why I would say that.”
The reality is that there have been far more egregious situations by far too many men where teams have gotten away with it. And it’s not like Kadri scored in a breakaway. He skated into the Lightning zone in one on three.
Regardless, Lightning better forget this fast and put the dubious nature of Game 4’s ending behind him, because Cooper was acting like the series ended on Wednesday.
If they don’t, the series will end on Friday and the Avs will lift the Lord Stanley Cup.
(Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today)