There has been bad officiating throughout this series, which I have made mention of in every game recap. Game one, I could get over because Craig Anderson stood on his head and stole the win from Montreal. Game two the Habs managed to win on the back of a fantastic performance from Carey Price. Game three, the Habs put forth a disgusting effort and the better team won. Game four, however, was completely decided by the biggest joke of an officiating crew I have ever had the displeasure of watching. The better team did not win on tuesday night, they were robbed. I have stated before that I don't like blaming losses on officials, but this is a rare case where it is not only acceptable, but just factually true.
The first period started out great. The Canadiens were putting on lots of pressure and heavily outshooting the Senators. It did seem like most of the shots were being directed at the crest of Anderson's jersey, but it was a rather dominant performance nonetheless. Inexplicably, the Senators were allowed to get away with a plethora of offenses (mainly interference), while the Habs were penalized twice in the period. It didn't matter, because the Habs were able to kill off those penalties and get through to the second with no score.
The second period was where the Habs found some success. First, P.K. Subban finally figured out that if you shoot at an area of the net that Anderson is not covering, you have a better chance of scoring. A beauty wrister from the Norris candidate, set up by a Tomas Plekanec feed put the Habs up 1-0. Just over a minute later, Alex Galchenyuk doubled the lead with a beauty wrister of his own set up by Jeff Halpern. 2-0 Habs and it certainly seemed that the series was heading for equality at 2-2, despite the Senators getting away with literally everything they did.
For whatever reason, the team decided to sit on that two goal lead through the remainder of the second, and the entire third period. About halfway through the period, Mika Zibanejad scored by kicking the puck in, which is illegal, but it counted anyways. Now it was 2-1 and the Habs put forth a push for a few minutes as if they actually wanted to extend the lead. To no avail the Habs put on some pressure so they regressed back to sitting on the lead. Then with the net empty, Cory Conacher banged home a loose puck amidst what seemed to me like some obvious interference on Carey Price by Kyle Turris. Now tied at two, we were inexplicably heading for Overtime.
I refuse to recap the OT period because it never should have happened. We all know what happened so let's just skip that.
This game was won and lost by the officials. Forgetting the plethora of missed/ignored calls that should have gone against the Senators, they still decided this game. The first Ottawa goal should never have counted. I know it was allowed upon review, but when the ref says "the call stands," that means they just didn't have the evidence to overturn the call on the ice. The goal should have been immediately waved off as it had clearly gone off his skate. The call "standing" is not a validation of the referee's call, but a statement that those reviewing video in Toronto didn't see enough to change it. It may be up for debate whether Turris actually interfered with Price, but it looked that way to me, so please discuss it in the comments.
There was a lot of talk about Tim Peel in the comments section throughout the game. While Peel was his usual shitty self, an NHL officiating crew is comprised of four men: two refs and two linesmen. The linesmen made some of the worst icing calls I have ever seen towards the end of the game. On one icing call, Sergei Gonchar was skating slower than I did when I was three years old while the puck trickled towards the goal line, but they still blew it down for icing. If a player has a chance at getting to the puck, but isn't actually trying to get it, the linesman is required to wave off the icing. This happened three times in the last two minutes and I believe it cost us the game, unless it was the 500 other things that the officiating crew got wrong.
I don't like blaming the refs for a loss, but last night they were simply fair game to blame. I am a little pissed at the Habs for sitting on the lead and allowing the refs the opportunity to steal the game from them, but this is absurd. I have been an on-ice official for over 10 years, it IS one of the hardest jobs to do, and I ref AAA hockey at best. These guys however are supposed to be professionals, and their performance in last night's game repulses me to my core. They missed about a dozen penalty opportunities, failed at line calls, and allowed one (maybe two) goals that should never have counted. It is thanks to the refs that the Habs are down 3-1 in this series, and if anyone says I'm full of it, they didn't watch the game last night. I know the Habs motto this year is "No excuses," but it's not an excuse if it's blatantly obvious and true.
The only silver lining I can think of is that two of the final three games (god willing there will be three of them) are in Montreal. Jeff Halpern was a revelation last night, setting up the Galchenyuk goal and playing like a man possessed throughout the game. Galchenyuk himself played AMAZING and deserves much more ice time than he got in the loss. Subban was back to his usual awesome self and Carey Price also played well. But wait, that last part might be fucked up because Peter Budaj had to come in for Price... So... Life sucks. No word on Price as I write this article but it looked like a groin to me, which is never good for a goaltender.
So now, the Habs head home for an elimination game and will have to win three of those in a row to stay alive in the hunt for Stanley. My hope is not gone because I've watched a less talented Habs squad do it against a more talented team. Yes, I'm talking about the 2010 squad. Sure, we don't have Jaroslav Halak to drag us from the jaws of elimination, but the Habs are clearly the better team in this series and I BELIEVE IN THEM.
The refs cost us a game, and now it's up to the boys to fight back and win this series. I know 3-1 is a deficit that is not often overcome, but it's also not all that rare for a team to do it. If you have given up on this team already, you're a bandwagoner and we can't be friends. If you haven't, then please join me in saluting a team that did way better than expected through the regular season, and needs to shock the world again.
They're up against it, but it ain't over until the fat lady sings.