Hejduk’s controversial goal lifts Avalanche past Lightning

TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) — Just when the Tampa Bay Lightning
thought things could not have gotten worse, they did.

Andrew Raycroft made 37 saves in regulation and Milan Hejduk
scored the decisive goal in the second round of a shootout to
hand the Colorado Avalanche a controversial 2-1 victory over the
Lightning on Thursday.

Hejduk’s backhanded attempt was initially saved, but the
referees promptly conversed and allowed the goal after Tampa Bay
goaltender Mike Smith let go of his stick to block the puck
while diving to the left side of the net.

“It was a heck of a hockey game,” Colorado coach Tony Granato
said. “For the refs to make that call, it’s a gutsy call, but
it’s the right call. If the goalie throws his stick in an
attempt to stop a penalty shot or shootout opportunity, it’s an
automatic goal.”

Mike Murphy, the NHL’s senior VP of hockey operations, echoed
those thoughts after the game.

“(The referees) huddle to make the decision to see if they felt
the stick was thrown – and if a goal stick is thrown, as
outlined in Rule 26-4, and if the officials on the ice decide
that the goalie has thrown his stick at the puck area or at the
shooter and disrupted the shot, they can award a goal and that’s
what they did in this case,” Murphy said in a phone interview
from Toronto.

Paul Stastny tallied in regulation to help the Avalanche improve
to 23-7-0 in their last 30 games against Eastern Conference

Jeff Halpern netted his first goal of the season for the
Lightning, who have dropped 11 of their last 12 games.

Raycroft denied Jussi Jokinen’s wrist shot and Smith stopped
Wojtek Wolski’s backhanded attempt in the first round of the

Captain Vincent Lecavalier was then stymied by Raycroft before
Hejduk was the beneficiary of a puzzling goal.

After a short delay on account of various objects thrown on the
ice by enraged Tampa Bay fans and several heated debates between
officials and several players, Raycroft denied Martin St. Louis
to send the Lightning to perhaps their most deflating loss of
the season.

“It was a good win, a good road win and a good shootout win,”
Raycroft said. “(The defense) was great tonight. We didn’t
take any penalties. We took one in the first and we killed it
off pretty well and that makes everyone’s life easier. Other
than that, we were solid.”

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Smith turned aside 34 saves, but fell to 1-6 in shootouts this

“I know it’s a quick game and things happen fast, but there’s
four refs on the ice – four, not one,” Smith said. “They have
the angles covered. I made the save and then I had to drop the
stick cause my stick was going to come up in the air. You can’t
make that call at that point in the game, you can’t.

“The save was already made. It was after the fact the stick
went to the ice. That hurts. That sums up the start of the
season, I guess.”

Tampa Bay fell to 2-8-5 under interim head coach Rick Tocchet,
who took over for the dismissed Barry Melrose midway through

“I don’t know right now what’s going on,” Tocchet said. “I was
trying to find out who made the call and I couldn’t get an
answer. We’re trying to talk to the league office how that
process works so it doesn’t happen again for another team.

“My phone’s been blowing up by NHL people that are friends of
mine, who said that’s a terrible call. I know the referees, you
can’t blame the referees every night. They’re good guys. Tim
Peel’s a good guy, but it’s a tough one to swallow. We need
wins so when something like this happens, you better be 100

Stastny opened the scoring 3:46 into the first period,
converting passes from Ryan Smyth and Hejduk while sitting on
the doorstep.

Halpern evened the game 7:35 into the following session when he
fired a wrist shot past Raycroft from the left faceoff circle.

“I felt good, pretty nervous before the game,” said Halpern, who
was playing his first game of the season after being sidelined
with a knee injury.

“I’m not exactly where I want to be as far as the way I played,
but I was pretty happy to be back. I made some dumb plays and I
made some good plays. I think the good plays are encouraging.”