- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2015

NEW YORK — Officials struck down a potential goal in the second period on Friday that would have given the Washington Capitals a one-goal lead in their eventual 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the teams’ second-round playoff series.

Defenseman Matt Niskanen attempted a shot from the right point at 17:51 of the second period that appeared to bounce off one of Joel Ward’s shoulders, trickle over goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and fell into the net. Referee Kevin Pollock immediately signaled that there was no goal, ruling that Ward had prevented Lundqvist from being able to make a play on the puck.

The Capitals argued that Ward had been pushed into Lundqvist by Rangers center Derek Stepan, who made contact with Ward while Niskanen’s shot was in the air. It was unclear whether Ward or Stepan had a skate in the crease at the time of contact, and also whether contact was made between the two before or after the puck was deflected into the net.

“[Officials] just said there was incidental contact,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after the game. “We felt, obviously, that he was pushed in. You know, they made the call, and that was it. You just deal with it and move on. On that one, we felt two things — Lundqvist came out, outside the blue, and engaged on it a little bit, and then Ward was pushed in.”

Rob Shick, the officiating manager of the series, wrote in a pool report e-mailed during the game that Lundqvist “wasn’t allowed to play his position in the crease. Incidental contact [by Ward]. I support the call. Results in no goal, no penalty.”

The same explanation was given to players and coaches on the ice. Ward, who did not speak to reporters following the game, was visibly upset immediately afterward, as was defenseman Brooks Orpik.

“It’s impossible for me to try to find the puck when there’s a guy on top of me like that,” Lundqvist said. “I think it was the right call. It’s tough. We had a similar situation in the first and it was not enough for a penalty, but I think when you have interference like that, it’s impossible to play the game. I think it’s a great call.”

According to the NHL rulebook, a goal can be disallowed if “an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal,” or “an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will not be permitted, and resulting goals [will not be] allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.”

Likewise, if an attacking player “has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.”

Such a call is not subject to video review, and a penalty for goaltender interference is not mandatory. Officials are urged to give more consideration to the degree of contact than the players’ positioning when disallowing a goal.

“Obviously, it can be frustrating when a goal is called back like that, but it is what it is,” Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said. “You move forward. The play you look at it could be called either way. It could be a good goal, but it was called the other way.

“We know that’s what we do. We crash the net. We try to put bodies in front and try to score those goals like that. In doing that, sometimes you get calls against you like that. You just have to live with it and battle through it, and next time that happens, I think we’ll battle through it better.”

The Capitals eventually scored the first goal of the game, marking the third time in the series they have done so, at 10:54 of the third period when Curtis Glencross put back his own rebound on a breakaway. The Rangers tied it at 18:19 of the third period when Chris Kreider scored, and then won it at 9:37 of overtime when Ryan McDonagh’s shot glanced by Holtby.

“I think leading up to that goal, we were starting to put on some heat and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves, throwing a lot of pucks at the net,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It was a good playoff goal — put the puck at the net in traffic, and that’s what you want.”

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