DENVER – Wayne Gretzky called it a “funny game-winning goal,” one that Shane Doan thought he had scored with a broken stick until Radim Vrbata got the credit instead – long after the game was over.
The Colorado Avalanche argued that neither one scored. Vrbata’s goal in the extra five minutes came during a scramble in front of the Avalanche goal, giving the Phoenix Coyotes a 4-3 win over Colorado on Monday night. Doan, who was on his knees, was initially credited with poking the puck between Peter Budaj’s pads with 1:37 left in overtime.
And Doan even said the puck went off him, but Vrbata was credited with his second career overtime goal and Doan got the assist.
“There’s a big, huge scrum there and I was pushing everything as hard as I can,” Doan said. “The puck went in off me and whoever is laying in front pushing at it. He is trying to bat it one way and I’m trying to bat it the other way.”
Colorado coach Joel Quenneville was steamed that anybody got credit for the goal at all. He said he saw the referee bring the whistle to his mouth, leading him to conclude the play was going to be blown dead.
“I disagree with the call. The intention’s to blow the whistle, you don’t blow the whistle because the puck went over the goal-line,” Quenneville said. “His intention was to blow the puck dead before the puck went in. Plus, the guy jumped on the goalie. Interference. Blow the whistle at that time of the game. It was a ridiculous non-call and I’m upset.”
T.J. Hensick, who scored two goals for Colorado and was on the ice for the deciding goal in overtime, said the Avalanche actually stopped fighting for the puck, mistakenly thinking the play had been whistled dead.
“We thought the whistle had blown but the ref said the puck was already in the net,” Hensick said. “I think we didn’t play for the last two seconds there. We thought the whistle blew. He poked it in. Bad bounce, bad change. They got the benefit of the doubt in overtime.”
Phoenix’s tying goal also came against a surprised Avalanche.
The Coyotes forced the extra period when Vrbata, playing on a sore ankle, scored into a wide open net with 3:11 left in the third period. Vrbata took a pass from Steven Reinprecht on a face off and slapped it past Budaj, who never saw the pass and was still hugging the post on the right side and not challenging the shot.
“I couldn’t believe I had the wide open net,” Vrbata said. “It was as if the Avalanche stopped playing and all I had to do was tap in the puck.”
And that’s what happened in overtime, too.
“We got lucky,” Gretzky said. “Reinprecht made a great play on the goal that tied it. Then, we win it on a kind of a funny game-winning goal.”
The Avs were unable to capitalize on a rare February home game. They play just four of 14 games this month at the Pepsi Center, where they’re 18-9-1, the second-best home record in the NHL behind Detroit.
It looked like the Avs were headed to victory when Hensick scored his second goal midway through the third period to give Colorado a 3-2 lead.
It came at 9:52 when he jammed the puck past Mikael Tellqvist after Jaroslav Hlinka centred the pass in front of the net. The goal wasn’t allowed until a stoppage in play at 11:32 and the officiating crew had a chance to review the play.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman attended the game. He said beforehand that Rick Tocchet, on two years’ probation after he pleaded guilty to promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling, is on track to resume his position as an assistant coach with the Coyotes on Thursday.
“I spoke with Rick last week and I wished him well,” Bettman said. “I think it’s time for all of us, including him … to move forward, look forward and put this all behind us. And I think Rick is prepared to put it behind him.”
Notes: Bettman said Denver would be strongly considered the next time the league decides to have another outdoor game like the one in Buffalo on New Year’s Day. … Coyotes centre Martin Hanzal injured his shoulder on a hit from Cody McCormick with 8:20 left in the first period and did not return.