The New York Islanders were at a loss for words after their 4-3 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues Saturday afternoon. It’s a game that to a man, the team felt they should have won. None of them could offer a logical explanation for the decision by the “War Room” in Toronto to overturn Thomas Vanek’s apparent game-winning goal with 1:15 remaining in overtime.
Vanek was just outside the crease. The puck went into the net off his skate but the officials on the ice ruled it a good goal. The War Room in Toronto overturned that call which means they felt there was indisputable visual evidence that the puck was put into the net with a “distinct kicking motion.” Replays do not seem to show any kicking motion on Vanek’s part.
“I thought it was a terrible call,” Vanek said after the game. “I think we all know what a kicking motion is. A kicking motion is if I lift my foot and move the puck. My skate never elevated. It was on the ice the whole time. I got lucky, it hit my skate blade and spun right in.”
Then Vanek paused and addressed the issue that so many Islanders fans are thinking. “I don’t know if it’s because of who we are. I think if that’s Pittsburgh or some of the other top teams, then it’s a goal.”
That statement may get the Austrian winger into hot water with the league, but ask any die-hard Islanders fan about it and they’ll almost universally say it’s accurate.
“It’s just a terrible call,” Vanek continued. “I thought we played a solid game against a really good St. Louis team and for that to be overturned, it’s just too bad.”
Isles Coach Jack Capuano was also displeased with the call. “To me, the referees made the right call on the ice,” Capuano said. “I looked at it again. It’s their decision up in Toronto. They must have seen something conclusive to overturn it.”
After the goal was waived off, the two teams returned to the ice for the remaining 1:15 of overtime. the game went to a shootout and Alexander Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk scored to give the Blues the victory. Vanek scored the only goal of the shootout for the Islanders.
This was a game that probably shouldn’t have reached overtime. St. Louis tied the game with 26.7 seconds left in regulation on a goal by T.J. Oshie. The Blues had pulled goalie Jaroslav Halak for an extra skater.
The Isles held the dreaded two-goal lead early in the game on goals by Vanek and Kyle Okposo. Vladimir Tarasenko scored late in the first period and again at 1:17 of the second period to tie the game at 2-2.
Matt Martin put the Islanders back ahead at 3:58 of the second stanza when he completed a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play by the fourth line. Colin McDonald and Casey Cizikas picked up the assists on this pretty goal.
In the end, the Islanders left the ice feeling as if they were robbed by the officials on this one.
Captain John Tavares tried to deflect attention away from the “War Room” even as he disagreed with their decision. “We had the lead with 20 second left and we didn’t get the job done,” he said. “Whatever it is, we need to have better execution.”
The Islanders did play well for most of the game game against a good team. Goalie Kevin Poulin made some spectacular saves to keep the Isles in the lead until the final minute of regulation time.
“It was a tough way to lose,” Martin added, “but if we play like that most nights we are going to come out on top.”
The Islanders return to action Monday night when they host the Boston Bruins. Then on Wednesday night, they host the New York Rangers outdoors at Yankee Stadium.
Attendance was 15,888
They Islanders are now just 6-4-5 this season when they have been ahead in a game by two goals.
Hall of Famer Byran Trottier was at the game and received a warm ovation from the crowd.