MONTREAL - Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Stevens watched his words regarding two decisive calls by referees Don Van Massenhoven and Mike Hasenfratz in his team's 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semi-final on Thursday.
The Canadiens benefited from a positive call when Alex Kovalev's shorthanded marker that tied the game 2-2 at the end of the second period was upheld after a video review. The replay showed that it was a very close call whether Kovalev hit the puck with a high stick on the play, but Stevens felt logic dictated it should not have been a goal.
"Any time a call is made on the ice it's going against you because it has to be conclusive the other way (to be overturned)," Stevens said. "I just thought his stick hit the net after it hit the puck, so logically you would think it was a high stick."
The second iffy call in Stevens' mind was a kneeing penalty on Mike Richards with 1:09 left in regulation time. Richards was trying to stop Kovalev from entering the Flyers zone when Kovalev made a sudden cut. In a quick reaction, Richards caught Kovalev with what could have been a knee, or could also have been a hip, and was called for kneeing.
"(Richards) was confused, I'm not sure what I can say about that," Stevens said. "We've been preaching discipline all along, and we know how important it is at playoff time. If your intention to do the right thing for the team is there, we'll live with the result. I think that was the case there."
Kovalev scored the tying goal with 28.6 seconds to play in regulation after Jeff Carter broke his stick on a faceoff with Saku Koivu. Richards would normally have been taking that faceoff is he weren't in the penalty box.
"I was just going for the puck and it snapped, that's it," Carter said. "There's not much you can do, I went down and I don't even know where the puck went after that."
Flyers goalie Martin Biron played a strong game, but he wishes he could have another chance on the overtime winner. Biron left a big rebound sitting in front on Andrei Markov's wrister from the point, and Tom Kostopoulos pounced to win the game.
"I was kind of expecting (Markov's shot) but I didn't know if it was going to be deflected because there was a guy right there, and I didn't really control the rebound the way I wanted to," Biron said. "I wanted to smother it, then it came out."
This was the third time in these playoffs the Flyers blew a two goal lead to lose the game. In Game 1 against the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia led 4-2 after two periods only to lose 5-4, and in Game 6 the Flyers blew a 2-0 lead in the second period by allowing four unanswered goals by the Capitals in a 4-2 loss.
"We haven't taken the easy road all year, we've made it hard on ourselves," Carter said. "This is just another bump in the road."