PHILADELPHIA – If in fact this was the last time the Flyers faced long-time nemesis Martin Brodeur, it will certainly go down as a memorable outcome.
And not because the Flyers won, they didn’t They lost 2-1. Not because Brodeur was especially brilliant - as he’s been so many times against the Flyers. He was good for the Devils. But the game will last in the memory banks because of one reason and one reason only:
A tying goal by Scott Hartnell in the final minute was disallowed by referee Tom Kowal for all the wrong reasons.
On what was an absolutely rough night for the officials – they tried calling a high sticking penalty on Steve Downie when in fact he was the guy who was high-sticked in the chops – the most egregious call came on that final play.
Hartnell was driving the net and had a step on Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov. He redirected the puck on net and it hit Brodeur on the inner thigh, but was never covered.
The puck kept moving, underneath Brodeur, but Hartnell and Volchenkov kept moving too and Volchenkov shoved Hartnell into his own goalie.
The puck kept sliding on its own across the goal line. Brodeur slid back a bit too, although not completely into the net. Either way, common sense tells you the puck was going in regardless of the contact with Brodeur.
Except Kowal saw it another way.
He ruled that Hartnell shoved Brodeur into the net with the puck, which, by NHL rule, is no goal. It also, by rule, is not reviewable, even though the Situation Room in Toronto buzzed down to talk to Kowal.
It was obvious to everyone watching on replay that it was a goal. But because of Kowal’s call, it couldn’t be changed, and in frustrating fashion, the Flyers lost.
“Volchenkov put all his weight on me,” Hartnell said. “I had a step on him and I tried to get it on net. If you look at it 100 times you can probably say 100 times out of 100 that it was a goal.”
The Flyers were incensed with the call, yelling at Kowal even after the game was over. Hartnell broke his stick on the ice near the Devils net after the final horn. Kimmo Timonen and Jake Voracek complained verbally.
Voracek wouldn’t let it go after the game either.
“With the playoffs on the line they’re going to make a call like that,” said Voracek. “It’s… incredible. It’s a joke.
“When the buzzer [from Toronto] went on I was 100 percent sure it was going to be a goal… I cannot believe it wasn’t a goal. He didn’t blow the whistle. When he waved no goal it was a shock for me… With the playoffs on the line, it was great hockey all game long and that [call] ruined the whole game.”
Voracek wasn’t done.
“I know the referee has a tough decision to make and it’s in a split second but when you call down from Toronto, you got to reverse it in my opinion. That’s why they have video replay. They were talking about it at the general managers meetings yesterday. That’s why it’s a goal.
“I’m not going to cry here about one goal because we lost the game and we had six power plays to score and we didn’t score. But you better be [darn] sure that’s not a goal before you make a call like that.”
The league provided this explanation:
At 19:20 of the third period in the Devils/Flyers game, the Situation Room initiated a video review because the puck entered the New Jersey net. The referee informed the Situation Room that Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell pushed goaltender Martin Brodeur across the goal line with the puck. According to Rule 78.5 (ix) "Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee when a goaltender has been pushed into the net together with the puck after making a save." This is not a reviewable play therefore the referee's call on the ice stands - no penalty and no goal Philadelphia.
Conversely, rule 69.1 explains "If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact."
After the game coach Craig Berube called it a 50/50 call.
With the loss the Flyers are now technically in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, tied with Columbus with 73 points. They still hold a playoff spot as one of the Wild Cards in the Eastern Conference.
For more on the game, read Flyers Inside Out
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers