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NHL coaches are up to the challenge with new rule allowing them to review goals

NHL.com @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Dan Bylsma is a big supporter of the NHL's decision to introduce coaching challenges this season. It makes no difference to the Buffalo Sabres' first-year coach that the new rule cost his team in its season-opening game.

The Sabres became the NHL's second team to have a goal disallowed as a result of a challenge in a 3-1 loss to Ottawa on Oct. 8. That's when Evander Kane's wrap-around goal that would have tied the game at 2 was disallowed after a video review showed forward Zemgus Girgensons was a hair offside when Buffalo entered the zone.

"It was the right call," Girgensons said following the game. "Someday, it's going to go for us."

Bylsma said it was a "fantastic" result.

"It goes against us, but I think it's worked great," he said.

Getting it right is what the NHL was counting upon when it joined the NFL and Major League Baseball in allowing coaches to challenge calls.

NHL coaches can challenge goals based on whether the play was offside or there was goalie interference. The coach can challenge only if he hasn't used his timeout. And the challenge is not necessary in the final minute of the third period or overtime, when the league takes over all reviews.

"I think it's worked well," said Mike Murphy, NHL vice-president of hockey operations. "The reason we instituted it was so that we could get the egregious calls particularly right, ones that everybody alive sees and says, 'This is the wrong call, it's a screw-up.'"

There have been fewer screw-ups three weeks into the season: Of the 15 goals challenged through Wednesday, only four have been reversed ??? three for goalie interference and Girgensons' offside.

An Associated Press review found that eight of the 15 challenges have been made when the game is tied and just four when a team is trailing. Eight of the 15 challenges have been used in the second period, and just three in the third.

Teams that challenge a call have a 5-9-1 record. Successful challenges have resulted in teams going 2-2.

An unexpected offshoot is how coaches have adapted to using challenges even when they're not certain the call will be reversed. Rather than using their 30-second timeout to settle players and slow an opponent's momentum, coaches are using the challenge to take advantage of the extended two- to three-minute break it takes for plays to be reviewed.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer used his challenge for such a reason after Kings forward Jeff Carter scored to put Los Angeles up 3-0 early in the second period. The goal counted, but the Sharks scored next in a 4-1 loss on Oct. 22.

"At that point it was a long shot," DeBoer said. "I was going to call a timeout, so that was my thought process."

Murphy is fine with coaches using that strategy, noting teams lose their timeout if the challenge fails.

DeBoer is 1-2 on challenges, with his successful one having an impact in San Jose's 5-0 win over Washington on Oct. 13. The Capitals had cut the lead to 3-1 midway through the second period, but the goal was disallowed because replays showed Jay Beagle interfered with goalie Martin Jones.

"I think at that point, it maybe took a little out of our sail," Capitals defenceman John Carlson said.

Though they're called coaching challenges, much of the responsibility lies on assistants to recommend whether to have a play reviewed.

In Buffalo, Bylsma uses his headset to consult with three assistants in the press box to determine whether to use his challenge. Toronto coach Mike Babcock credited assistant coach Andrew Brewer for making the call on having a Montreal goal overturned because of goalie interference in the Maple Leafs' season-opening 3-1 loss.

Sabres defenceman Josh Gorges understands what the NHL is seeking to accomplish in a bid to get calls right. His only concern is whether the league might expand challenges to review other plays.

"I hope we don't go too far down that road. I mean, they'll be reviewing every whistle," Gorges said. "I think with all major sports, part of it is human error. ... That's life. That's hockey. That's sports."

Murphy said there are no plans to expand what plays can be challenged.

"You want to use video replay to get egregious plays, not close calls where it's 50-50," Murphy said. "(Coaches) can live with some of the close plays that happen in our sport. It's what make our sport so great. It travels so fast."

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AP Sports Writer Jay Cohen and AP freelance reporters Jeff Seidel and Rick Eymer contributed to this report.

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