The fans in San Jose won't like this but an apparent goal by their Sharks at the two-minute mark of overtime Tuesday night – which cost the Sharks a point after they went on to lose 5-4 in a shootout with the Buffalo Sabres – was missed because of a series of circumstances and not because anyone at the NHL's video room in Toronto was asleep in front of the screen.
The goal was waved off by referee Mike Leggo and the call was not overturned by the league officials in Toronto who review such plays. None of the Sharks players or coaches argued otherwise. But a few minutes later, the San Jose television broadcast had a replay that showed the puck crossed the goal line before Leggo waved it off.
According to Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior executive vice-president of hockey operations, "we have to prove without a doubt this a good goal, that this went in." And this is where the series of circumstances started, although Campbell said, "At end of day right call was made," even if, he admitted, "it probably didn't look right."
The Sharks-Sabres game was the last one on the schedule Tuesday night, as it was on the west coast. There were two people remaining on duty in the NHL war room in Toronto, a staffer who monitored the various camera angles available to the NHL on several screens and Mike Murphy, Campbell's second-in-command in the hockey operations department, as the supervisor.
The play started when Sharks forward Tyler Kennedy fired a shot from the left slot that hit the far goal post and bounced under Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, who was lying in the crease. Sharks winger Tommy Wingels poked the puck from under Miller's pad and it headed toward the goal line, just as Sabres defenceman Tyler Myers lunged toward it and swept his legs along the goal line.
The 6-foot-9 Myers was directly between the puck and Leggo, who was standing at the side of the net, close to the right post. Leggo immediately waved his arms, indicating no goal.
After the play, Murphy went over to the NHL staffer's screens for another look. Campbell said Murphy's concern was making sure the first shot by Kennedy hit the post and did not enter the net. He was not concerned with what happened after Wingels poked the puck, Campbell said, "because nothing told him the puck went in. None of the players' hands went up, nothing."
If Murphy thought Wingels pushed the puck over the goal line he could have signalled for a delay in the game while he checked all the available camera angles on a replay. But he did not because of the lack of reaction from the players plus the fact Leggo waved the goal off.
The NHL video room officials need to show "black-and-white" evidence, as Campbell put it, to reverse a referee's decision on a goal. They are also sensitive to the issue of delaying games while they review goals.
Campbell said there are constant complaints when "we take six or seven minutes to make a decision and we get screamed at for taking so long."
A few minutes later, of course, the Sharks TV broadcasters came up with a replay that showed the puck crossed the line just before it was kicked out by Myers, who blocked Leggo's view of the play. This resulted in Murphy calling Leggo after the game to discuss the play.
Leggo said he never saw the puck cross the goal line and, as a matter of fact, he lost sight of the puck when it went under Miller after the first shot by Kennedy. At that point, Leggo said, he whistled the play dead.
That made the matter of Wingels scoring moot. Leggo may have been a little quick with his whistle (and there have been many, many goals disallowed because of this) but under the rules a referee has the right to stop the play once he loses sight of the puck.
So, Campbell said, "at the end of the day it was a dead play," which mean Wingels's goal could not count.