NEW YORK – A dispute involving logic and physics was all that kept the Rangers (36-29-4) from at least one crucial point – and perhaps two — in their frantic playoff push Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Late in the second period, with the Rangers trailing the Sharks 1-0, Carl Hagelin tried a wraparound on stalwart Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi (41 saves). He appeared to stop the puck, and referee Dennis LaRue waived no goal. The NHL’s war room in Toronto quickly called down to LaRue and referee Dan O’Halloran to take another look.
“I just saw his pad was pretty deep in the net, Pouliot saw the puck from above, and he saw the puck was in,” Hagelin said. “I just saw the video review – it’s pretty obvious that it was in.”
The video appeared to show the puck coming out of the net at the left post, but never actually showed the puck completely over the line and in the net. While logic – and physics – would seem to indicate the puck had to be in the net, without what the league calls “conclusive evidence,” the play had to be called no goal, even after a lengthy review.
“I think it’s in, on the ice,” said Brad Richards. “But it’s impossible for the ref to see that. The goalie’s blocking his view. Just one of those perfect timing plays where I don’t think anybody – [even] cameras, unless you’re right there looking down on it, probably [could] see it. We kind of figured there’s no conclusive evidence. It’s no one’s fault. Just the way it bounced tonight.”
It was the pivotal moment in a 1-0 Rangers loss that sent the scuffling Blueshirts into fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, and one of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
“They obviously have to stick to the rulebook, if they can’t see it they can’t call it,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 28 saves in the loss. “Even though it’s so obvious. It’s really frustrating. This loss is so painful in so many ways.”
NHL rules say the video must show conclusive evidence that the puck was actually in the net. So, while it’s hard to believe the puck wasn’t in the net, it’s impossible to call it a goal without actually seeing it in the net. No camera angle showed the entire puck all the way past the goal line.
“This is not me saying this, it’s some of my friends saying it, ‘They make it up as they go along!’” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “So, I’m just going to leave it at that. I’m not saying that. From the replay that I saw, you can’t see a puck. Maybe I can assume that you can’t see the puck because it’s under the goaltender’s pad in the goal, but it has to be conclusive, and I guess they felt it wasn’t. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
“We saw what everyone else saw,” said Marc Staal, who got an on-ice explanation when the decision was rendered. “We saw the puck go over the line. Ref told me that Toronto didn’t have any conclusive evidence that it actually went across the line. That’s what was told to me.”
It doesn’t matter whether logic indicates the puck has to be in the net. If the video doesn’t show it in the net, the play can’t be overturned.
“It’s brutal,” Hagelin said of the decision. “That’s part of the game. I can’t focus on that right now. We really needed the goal, that’s what it comes down to.”
“You can’t get frustrated about that stuff,” said Richards. “You get back to work. Frustration is useless right now, because it’s a clean slate every day and you get back to work.”
The Rangers are 3-3-1 in the seven games since the trade that sent former captain Ryan Callahan to the Lightning for Martin St. Louis, who has just two assists in his seven games as a Ranger.
The Rangers put at least 40 shots on goal for the 13th time this season, after only doing so five times in last season’s lockout-shortened 48-game season.
The last time the Rangers were shut out while putting at least 40 shots on goal was Jan. 12, 2010. They’ve only been shut out seven times when taking 40 shots since the 1987-1988 season.
The Rangers penalty kill successfully killed its only chance, making the team a perfect 21-for-21 in its last eight games.
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