John Shipley: Wild have been gut-punched by disallowed goals

John Shipley: Wild have been gut-punched by disallowed goals

Vegas Knights coach Peter DeBoer challenged the Wild’s third goal last Thursday and it worked so well, he decided to try it again on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

Lo and behold, it worked again.

After saving his team from a 3-0 deficit in Game 3 by crying “offsides!” after Joel Eriksson Ek’s first-period rebound goal last Thursday, DeBoer challenged what initially appeared to be the tying goal in the first period of Game 4 on Saturday.

Wild forward Marcus Foligno was screening Knights Marc-Andre Fleury when Erikkson Ek’s wrist shot from the left circle found the short corner, so DeBoer used his challenge to cry “goalie interference!” Again, the on-ice officials, with help from replay officials in Toronto, upheld DeBoer’s objection.

Eriksson Ek’s goal appeared to tie the game 1-1 only seconds after Nicolas Roy gave the Knights a 1-0 lead on his breakaway goal at 10 minutes, 37 seconds of the fist period. It didn’t, and by the end of the second period, the Wild were down by three in a 4-0 loss.

“Clearly, it hurt us, with momentum, excitement,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “It wasn’t like we lost our composure after that, but it did hurt us, obviously, not to be tied, 1-1.”

All but dead, the Wild head into Game 5 in Las Vegas staring at yet another first-round playoff elimination after scoring only four goals in four games because two were called back because of infractions not seen by the naked eye. Here is the NHL, perpetually scheming ways to increase scoring and attract new fans, taking away goals. In the playoffs. Twice. In one series. Against the same team.

It’s not a great look, but an interesting path to victory.

Were they penalties? Certainly the offsides on Thursday was, by inches. Did it give Minnesota an advantage? Doesn’t matter. Some video coach who checks on every goal-against spotted it, relayed the information to DeBoer and the coach challenged the call. It was smart.

The Wild were so outplayed in the last two periods of that 5-2 loss that it’s not fair to say the offsides call cost them the game. But it’s also naive to believe it didn’t play a role. A 3-0 deficit is entirely different than a 2-0 deficit, especially on the road in front of a vocal crowd.

That’s a reprieve, and the Golden Knights used it.

On Saturday, Eriksson Ek’s disallowed goal momentarily erased a 1-0 deficit at the mid-point of the first period. Knights center Jonathan Marchessault did the same to the Wild in Game 2 in Las Vegas, and it shifted momentum in their 3-1 win.

Did Foligno interfere with Fleury’s ability to make a play? That’s at least debatable. It was a good hockey screen, and Fleury appeared to initiate the contact. But Foligno had at least part of a skate in the crease, as shown by overhead, slow-motion replay.

“Do we disagree with it? Sure,” Evason said, “but there’s nothing we can do.”

In general, about a dozen things have to go right for an NHL team to score a goal; it seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to call one back because a skate is an inch inside the crease or a few inches past the blue line. When he was asked about it the goaltender interference call, Erikkson Ek, who has scored three goals this series but had two called back, said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to think.”

Foligno called it a “tough call.”

“Inch further out, inch in, I mean, I don’t know,” he added. “It’s just a tough call (in) back-to-back games for Ekker with a called-back goal. Does that stuff take the wind out of your sails a little bit? I think so. But if it’s goaltender interference, it’s goaltender interference. Got to be better.”

That’s generous.

Hey, NHL, want to increase scoring? Don’t make the pad smaller, or widen the net; stop using slow-motion replay to disallow goals. It violates the spirit of the game. Hockey isn’t played in slow-motion; it shouldn’t be officiated in slow motion.

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