What a game, for about 54 minutes. Over the first 54 minutes of the hockey game, the Montreal Canadiens had played a near perfect road game.
Smart agitating by Erik Cole put the Canadiens up on a 5-on-3 after Victor Hedman took a stupid retaliation penalty. Brian Gionta then put the Habs up 1-0, converting a pass from Tomas Plekanec with a goal mouth tap in.
In the second period, Lars Eller was dominant in the second period, and his play lead to goals by P.K. Subban and Travis Moen. The exemplary play by the 4th line also included the first point of the year for Colby Armstrong, the last regular Hab to get on the scoresheet.
Then the Canadiens' 54 minutes were up. Subban missed a check on Benoit Pouliot, and David Desharnais completely ignored his defensive responsibilities and let Hedman sneak in late uncovered for an easy back door tap in on Price from Tom Pyatt. Two former Habs keying a comeback? Of course.
The game probably should have ended on that note, but four minutes later a Teddy Purcell pass deflected off of Subban's stick into the air. Hedman again was crashing the net, and this time he swept his arm forward and swatted the puck into the net with his right hand.
Referee Dave Jackson called the play a goal, in spite of NHL rule 67.6:
67.6 Disallowed Goal - A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who bats or directs the puck with his hand into the net. A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who bats or directs the puck and it is deflected into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official. When the puck enters the net on a clear deflection off a glove, the goal shall be allowed.
Clearly the play was in need of video review, but considering Jackson made the wrong call on the ice, the review was already weighted towards a goal. Unless they could prove "conclusively" that it was not a legal goal, the call on the ice stands.
Watching the video review over and over, Hedman's hand was clearly where the puck hit. Hedman's hands were both on his stick, but he clearly pushes his arm forward. Whether or not the intent was to hit the puck or not doesn't matter, all that matters is whether the puck was directed in. That much looked pretty clear from the replay.
To add an extra factor, Hedman's hand was clearly above the crossbar from the side view of the goal. As far as I can tell, there's no NHL rule for "high handing" but I imagine that the spirit of the high sticking rule still applies.
No matter the rules, the goal was somehow allowed to stand. It was a complete farce, but the way the Canadiens reacted was even worse.
Running around like chickens with their heads cut off, desperately trying to prevent another collapse like what happened against Buffalo last week, they all but ensured it would happen. Plekanec took a penalty with just over a minute left in the period, and just 20 second in a slapshot by Sami Salo took a blind luck bounce off of Josh Gorges' skate, then Raphael Diaz's skate, and past Carey Price.
As some sort of ridiculous punishment for imagine offenses, Subban watched the end of regulation and all but the last couple seconds of the overtime period. Therrien's gamble to prove a nonexistent point didn't bite him this time, but taking the unnecessary risk of going to a shootout when you're awarded a powerplay in overtime seems exceedingly foolish to me.
Luckily for Therrien, Price came up huge in the shootout and stopped all three Lightning shooters, and David Desharnais was able to slide one between Anders Linback's legs for the win.
The Canadiens outplayed the Lightning, but be it officiating or bad luck, they let them back into the game when it should have been over. It was the second time in 3 games that it happened. Score effects are always going to come into play at some point, but the Canadiens are having a clear problem at the ends of games, something that plagued them last year as well.
The Canadiens were a few minutes away from a resoundingly successful bounce back game coming off of their worst loss of the season, but in the end all we're left with is more questions. Hopefully Florida makes it easier.
For the view from the losing side, check out Raw Charge.