The Nashville Predators’ thrilling triple-overtime victory helped make for one of the 2016 post-season’s most memorable games, but the San Jose Sharks can’t help but feel as if the playoffs’ longest game shouldn’t have made it to the third overtime. In fact, the Sharks don’t think it should have made it to the end of the first extra frame.
Less than eight minutes into the first overtime, the Sharks nearly put away the game on a bizarre play that saw captain Joe Pavelski bat down an airborne puck with his hand and swat the puck across the goal line with his stick at the last possible second. However, as soon as the puck crossed the line, the goal was waved off and the play went under review.
The earliest indications were that the play was being reviewed to see if Pavelski had swatted the puck across the line with his glove, but once that was confirmed, the officials took a look at the potential goaltender interference. See for yourself:
The final word following review and consultation with NHL Hockey Operation was that Pavelski’s contact with Pekka Rinne was incidental contact but prevented the Predators goaltender from “doing his job in the crease.” The Sharks were baffled by the call, though, especially as they felt Pavelski had been shoved into Rinne by Nashville center Paul Gaustad. Pavelski said the officials did acknowledge that he was pushed into the crease but that the shove didn’t have enough force for him to obstruct Rinne’s ability to make the save, nor was the shove forceful enough for a penalty to be called on Gaustad. San Jose coach Pete DeBoer let his frustrations about the “incidental contact” rule be known post-game.
“I don’t understand,” DeBoer said following the triple-overtime loss. “I guess incidental contact is you’re cross-checked from behind while you’re in the air, and you have the opportunity to stop. That rule has been clear as mud to every coach in the league all year, so why should it be any different tonight?”
DeBoer wasn’t the only one confused by the call and frustrated with the outcome. Sharks center Logan Couture said players on the San Jose bench “were pretty positive it was a goal,” calling the no-goal ruling a bizarre outcome.
“(Pavelski) hit it with his stick and he got cross-checked pretty hard from Gaustad,” Couture said. “The explanation was that he had time to stop, which, I mean, if you’re reaching up to get a puck and getting cross-checked from behind, I don’t know where you find time to stop.”
Time to stop or not, the no-goal call took Pavelski’s potential game-winner off the board and play started up again. Nearly 44 minutes of game time would pass before the contest finally found its conclusion thanks to a Mike Fisher tally, his second of the night, in the third overtime. And instead of the Sharks leading the series 3-1 on the back of their captain’s overtime heroics, they now head back to San Jose tied with Nashville at two wins apiece.