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Babcock, Maple Leafs win first coach's challenge

by Tim Wharnsby / NHL.com

TORONTO -- The decision was swift and decisive, and in the judgment of veteran referee Dan O'Rourke, the first coach's challenge in NHL history went without a hitch.

At 6:35 of the second period in the NHL season opener Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens appeared to score a go-ahead goal when defenseman Jeff Petry converted a behind-the-back pass from Max Pacioretty.

O'Rourke was the official down low and signaled a goal, but Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock decided to challenge the call on the ice after his assistant in the press box, Andrew Brewer, notified the bench there was goaltender interference on the play.

"I didn't challenge nothing," Babcock said. "[Brewer] yelled in [assistant coach] Jim Hiller's ear and Jim said, 'We're challenging.' Then they were good enough to put it up on the screen, so I knew by time the ref got over there we'd win it."

The Maple Leafs won the challenge but lost Babcock's debut as Maple Leafs coach, 3-1 at Air Canada Centre.

A team is allowed to challenge only if it hasn't used its timeout. If the challenge is unsuccessful, the team is charged its timeout.

O'Rourke said after the game he knew there was contact with Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier but thought the skate of Toronto defenseman Matt Hunwick ran into the goalie, not the stick of Montreal forward Tomas Plekanec as the replay showed.

So after the goal was scored, O'Rourke skated to the penalty box to report the scoring play to the official scorer. Referee Frederick L'Ecuyer stopped in front of the benches to supervise the next line change.

That's when the Maple Leafs made their decision to challenge. L'Ecuyer informed O'Rourke, and L'Ecuyer made an announcement to the fans.

O'Rourke then was handed the 4-G video monitor and was put in touch on a headset with the NHL Situation Room in Toronto. He viewed "two or three" replays and overturned his call.

"We had what we thought we saw on the ice," O'Rourke said. "[The situation room] said, 'Here's the replay, take a look at it.' Once you saw the overhead replay, it was pretty cut and dry.

"It was a whole lot easier to make the call. At the end of the day, it was a lot better to have watched the play on video, make it right and move on."

NHL Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom also was in the building and said he was pleased with the first coach's challenge. The officials worked on the process of a coach's challenge in their training camp.

"It's one thing to think about something in theory, it's another to see it in practice," Walkom said. "So the sooner the better.

"He got to see the best angle. He got to see it in real time, and it was a decision that didn't take long. We're used to making calls in an instant. Now to have the opportunity to see it in 4-G, it was real clear.

"It keeps the integrity of the game."

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