The Coyotes cornered the NHL market on bizarre storylines long ago, but until this season, most of those focused on their off-ice ownership saga.
With that situation finally resolved in July, they needed a new outlet for their weird ways, so they decided to carry them onto the ice.
In just 36 games this season, captain Shane Doan has contracted a form of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, veteran defenseman Rusty Klesla has been demoted to the AHL, promoted back to the NHL, demoted and promoted again and goalie Mike Smith has scored a goal — and now he’s been at the center of two controversial and truly bizarre goals on this just-completed four-game road trip.
On Monday in Buffalo, the Coyotes blew a late 1-0 lead and then lost 2-1 in overtime when Mark Pysyk’s shot deflected into the air and landed in the back of Smith’s pants, where it stayed as he carried it with him into the net while trying to get back in position.
In the NHL’s official ruling on the play, video review supported the referee’s call on the ice of a good goal, ruling that Smith’s momentum propelled him and carried the puck completely across the goal line.
However, Rule 85.3 (Puck Out of Sight) states that: "Should a scramble take place or a player accidentally fall on the puck and the puck be out of sight of the Referee, he shall immediately blow his whistle and stop the play. The puck shall then be faced-off at the nearest face-off spot in the zone where the play was stopped unless otherwise provided for in the rules."
Smith told FOX Sports Arizona’s Todd Walsh: "I’ve never seen that before. I guess if they don’t see a puck, they’re supposed to blow the whistle, but that’s not what happened.
"I didn’t feel it at all. I didn’t know what happened. I knew that the puck went up in the air, but I had no idea where it went after that."
Just four days earlier, the Coyotes lost 2-1 in a shootout in Toronto after officials ruled James Van Riemsdyk’s shot was in the net under Smith’s pads, although it was impossible to see the puck and one of Smith’s pads was slightly outside the goal line. In neither case did the referee signal goal on the ice, although the league’s situation room says that was the call on the ice in both instances. Former referee Kerry Fraser made it clear in a recent blog on NHL.com that a goal call should always be signaled on the ice.
Smith said the referee "whispered in my ear" in the loss to Toronto, but he never heard or saw any goal call Monday in Buffalo, nor does the replay show any. As is often the case, the rules do not include enough clarity to always guide calls in these instances.
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett refused to blame the officiating, instead pointing the finger squarely at his team for managing just four points on a trip against weaker Eastern Conference foes. Phoenix went 1-1-2 against the East on this trip after starting the season 8-1-1.
"This game is an honest game. If you’re supposed to win, usually you can win," Tippett told Walsh. "We didn’t deserve to win tonight, so those things happen."
Smith echoed those thoughts, but with a little more flair.
"Exactly what Tip said: It’s an honest game, and if you don’t play how you’re supposed to play, especially our team, you get it jammed right up your butt."