It was a sad night in SoCal Saturday. Sad, and a little bit pathetic. The two NHL teams, like Casey at the bat, struck out. For no good reason, because each of them was playing a team either below them or significantly below them in the standings. And both lost and dealt another tiny death blow to their (still very much alive) playoff hopes.
The Ducks had won two games consecutively via shutout over Dallas and Vegas. Think about that. The Stars, if they were in the Pacific, would have more goals than everybody save Vegas. Vegas has more goals than anybody in the West and are only outdone in the NHL by Tampa Bay. The Ducks allowed each of them nada. Then they went to Arizona and dumped a 2-0 game to the Coyotes. Cue that ridiculous howl they use in the arena when something good happens to the home team. No wonder people on Josh Brewster’s Duck Calls post-game show were pissed off. You can listen for yourself at www.hockeytalkradio.com.
The Kings had lost a game versus Dallas on Thursday but had been on a three-game winning streak before that. They let Edmonton dominate large portions of their game and ended up on the short end of a 4-3 score.
Now, that’s not to say that Edmonton is a terrible team. They have two of the highest-powered scorers in the league, after all, and Cam Talbot, newly rejuvenated, in net. But the Kings were weak and sloppy in every area of the game.
They almost made it interesting at the end, though. Wait for that.
They got scored on early. Very early. Within the first minute of the game early. They took penalties, nary a good one though only four minutes in all. They allowed turnovers, including one where the puck was far too easily chipped off Drew Doughty’s stick while he rushed toward the Edmonton slot with the disc. That turned back up ice and ended up in the net. Drake Caggiula put it to Jujhar Khaira, who picked the spot up and over Jonathan Quick’s right shoulder. Christian Folin was uselessly reaching to get a poke at the puck. Not NHL-style defense, that.
For Edmonton, a scary moment in period one: Connor McDavid ran smack into Milan Lucic at the LA blueline. McDavid went slowly off the ice and was bent over on the bench for several minutes. He reappeared with his line to end the period, though. He didn’t score on the night, but he recorded three shots.
In general, it was a rough-and-tumble, old-style game. Zack Kassian offered to fight Dion Phaneuf, who skated away early in the game. Jeff Carter, back from being on IR since October, ran into Darnell Nurse. Both went down Nurse’s helmet flying. Kris Russell blocked a shot and hobbled to the bench. New King Nate Thompson hit Matt Benning in the corner next to the Oilers net. Both went down hard. The hits on the evening were tallied at 23-19 for Edmonton. There’s no inflation in that figure.
But to the matter of that ending. The Oilers were up 3-2, last minute of play. The puck came to the blueline on Ryan Strome’s stick off a pass from former two-time King Michael Cammalleri. Strome dished it past a defender with 59 seconds to go.
I got up and started toward the elevator. Something made me stop. The Kings’ Dustin Brown got the game to within a goal with 18 seconds left. Drew Doughty slapped it to the net. Brown got the tiniest but most perfect deflection, and it went through Talbot’s legs.
The puck was faced off with 18 seconds on the clock. The Kings rimmed it in on the right side. It was recovered and put to the front. Brown again. He stuck out his stick and put the puck in. It seemed.
They reviewed it. The crowd decided the matter first. They said goal. It was called a goal. The puck had crossed in an upright position when Talbot’s pad was moved into the net. Goal.
The Oilers challenged goalie interference. That call was accepted. It shouldn’t have been, because you can’t score when the puck is pushed over the line with the goalie, which is what actually happened. The referee should have just called that, if not in real time, then after. But is it possible for them to, in essence, issue a challenge? Even the NHL people in the lower-level press area after the game weren’t sure. Nor, to tell the truth, was anyone all that sure how the entirety of the events in that last official few seconds of the game transpired. But it was not a goal, anyway, because Brown had clearly touched the puck but then scored the goal when his stick propelled Talbot’s pad, rather than the puck itself, over the line.
With the building in a mini-uproar and those that had left early vindicated, the game ended, 4-3 for the visitors.
Coach McLellan was happy to accept the no-goal after, no matter whether it was necessary or, as I believe, the referee should have/would have called the play a non-goal anyway.
“It’s been a long time coming. No one wanted to be challenging. I thought we could have done a better job in those last few minutes.”
Dustin Brown was left frustrated. “If the puck is trapped under his pad and you jam it in the net, I get that. That’s been the standard. I’m hitting the puck in front of his pad. I don’t know. What am I supposed to do? It’s frustrating. . . . The puck’s not under his pad. It’s loose. I’m hitting the puck. Does my stick touch his pad? Yeah, but the puck’s right there.”
That doesn’t constitute goalie interference. It does constitute a blown call that they ended up getting right.
But what Brown said illustrates why it’s best not to act as your own lawyer—you might just end up confessing to the crime.
Tip-A-King, the charity event where fans get to meet Kings players, happens on March 3rd. Tickets are available at the team’s website. Get that sweater filled with the autographs you’ve always wished were there.
The Oilers now head to Anaheim for a Sunday late afternoon start. The Kings play Vegas back-to-back in LA and Nevada on Monday and Tuesday.