Situation Room: Is the Capitals’ frustration with officiating justified?

An eternal flame burns between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their rivalry is probably the most prominent one in the National Hockey League. And that fire got bigger Monday, as both teams set a record for the highest-scoring affair this season.

Both teams combined for 15 goals, and even after all of that, an extra period of overtime was required to decide a winner. Eventually, it was the Pittsburgh Penguins who came out on top, 8-7.

However, there was plenty of controversy surrounding Pittsburgh’s victory. Washington demanded the referees review Conor Sheary’s overtime winner, claiming there was goaltender interference on the play. The Penguins were already celebrating and heading off the ice to the locker room.

After that, the review was quick and short. The official skated to centre ice, explained swiftly there was no interference on the play and let the call stand. Pittsburgh won, and Washington’s nine-game winning streak was over in the blink of an eye.

In wake of the loss, the Capitals, as well as their fanbase, seem to be frustrated with the officiating. But looking at all of the controversial calls, which were justified? We’re here to walk you through.

Patric Hornqvist’s Uncalled Elbow on T.J. Oshie- UNJUSTIFIED

This was a scary play, and likely a call the officials should have made. Oshie was in full stride heading to the corner, and Hornqvist came in, bringing his elbow up and fully targeting the head. Here’s a GIF for those who didn’t see the play.

Hornqvist received no penalty for the elbow, nor was he ejected from the game. Instead, he got away with an illegal elbow to the head, which could have seriously injured Oshie, leading to a possible concussion or head injury.

Evgeni Malkin’s Hattrick Goal – JUSTIFIED

Malkin registered three goals in the second period for the Penguins, including a nifty one on the power-play for his 21st goal of the season. However, Washington called a Coach’s Challenge on this play, seeing that Patric Hornqvist crashed into the net and into Philipp Grubauer, who was unable to make the save.

First off, the original call on the ice was a good goal. Malkin beat Grubauer on the play. However, the question lied in Hornqvist’s interference. He did make contact on Grubauer and seemed to interfere with his ability to stop the puck.

However, watch Daniel Winnik. He was sliding on the play and tripped Hornqvist into the net, and as a result, Hornqvist fell, unable to stop himself. There was no way he intentionally interfered with Grubauer.

Still, the argument lies in the fact that Grubauer was interfered with by an opposing player, and therefore, the goal should be disallowed because he was unable to make a save. However, according to the NHL rule book, the call should stand as a good goal.

“…The attacking Player was pushed, shoved or fouled by a defending Player, causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper.” – Note 2 of Rule 78.7

Crosby’s Uncalled Trip on Ovechkin in OT – UNJUSTIFIED

Early in the overtime period, Alex Ovechkin got a hold of the puck and started skating away with it toward the offensive zone. However, Sidney Crosby tangled his leg with Ovechkin, who tripped right over his skate and fell, losing possession. The trip ultimately led to the two-on-one that cost Washington the victory.

This is a blatant trip, even if it was completely incidental. Still, the linesmen let play continue, and during 3-on-3, this kind of collision shouldn’t be allowed. There is way too much ice and space, and with Ovechkin having complete possession of the puck, this should have been a penalty.

Considering this call led to the Capitals ultimately falling in overtime, there should be no excuse when it comes to this missed call. It’s one of the most frequent penalties in the game, and whether or not it’s overtime or just the beginning, Crosby should have been off to the box.

Conor Sheary’s Overtime Winner- JUSTIFIED

This one confused me. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what to make of the call when it first happened. In fact, I wasn’t all that fond of the Penguins heading off without waiting for the goal to be reviewed. It felt wrong.

But after seeing the play again, I can see why the referees let the call on the ice stand. This is a basic two-on-one, with two fast-moving Penguins forwards rushing to the net.

A sliding Niskanen ends up going toward the net, and Sheary shot the puck. Grubauer came up with the initial save, and Crosby attempted to whack at it, simply going to the net. After that, Sheary kept digging, and eventually, the puck deflected off Niskanen’s skate and into the net.

While Crosby did get his stick between the legs of Grubauer, he did not deliberately disable him from saving the puck. Sheary doesn’t make any contact with the Capitals netminder, and Niskanen put the puck into his own net by accident. Therefore, the call stands: it’s a good goal.

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