TAMPA, Fla. | Of all the nights for officials to become part of the story, Bruce Boudreau and the Washington Capitals didn't want it to be this one.
But they were, as the Caps' coach had problems with two plays — most notably the game-winner that put his team on the brink of being swept out of the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Capitals already had blown their 3-2 lead on a Steven Stamkos goal at the 5:23 mark of the third, and then got another chance. Tampa Bay's Nate Thompson threw the puck in front toward a streaking Ryan Malone, who was being covered by defenseman John Carlson. Malone and Carlson collided in the crease and ran into goalie Michal Neuvirth while the puck deflected in off Malone's skate.
Boudreau was not happy with veteran referee Paul Devorski's call.
"Malone's driving to the net and pushes our player into our goaltender, and [Neuvirth] can't kick out his right leg to make the save," he said. "It's a no-goal, no-penalty call. It's one of the best referees in the league, and I fully respect him, but I don't think it should've counted."
Whether it was incidental contact on Malone's part or shoving Carlson is a subject for debate. But it's a cruel twist of fate that a non-call like that may have ended the Caps' season.
I think their guy pushed Carly and he pushed me and we both end up in the net," Neuvirth said.
Asked if he thought it was interference, Neuvirth seemed to be on the brink of tears and replied: "It's tough to say. It's not up to me. I can't say that."
The Caps' coach also took umbrage with an earlier call as his team was whistled for too many men on the ice while on the power play. Brooks Laich, playing the point, took a puck to the mouth and came off the ice. Meanwhile, Alexander Semin and Carlson both came on; Boudreau said Semin should not have.
Almost concurrently, Mike Knuble tucked the puck inside the left post for what could have been a power-play goal. It was waved off as one of the linsemen saw six Caps on the ice.
"It was definitely too many men, but he didn't make it past the red line before they called it," Boudreau said. "I'm just explaining that nobody got into the play. Came in, came out. He didn't get involved in any of the play. During the course of the season, one of two refs will tell you, 'I wanted him to get involved in the play before I called it.' The other one will say, 'Well, no, as soon as he gets on the ice I call it.' The rule is ambiguous to the coaches, or to me at least."
Carlson was at the red line, while Semin was streaking to the net when Knuble scored. It was clear on replays that there were definitely six players on the ice.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.