Going into a game against the Dallas Stars last night, despite the continued whispers of their new third jerseys operating under some bad mojo, the team appeared to be in a confident, upbeat mood, particularly with the visit of former Jacket Epsen Knutsen to the team as part of his Alumni Night appearance.
Indeed, the Jackets carried the tempo for much of the game, and played extremely well for the majority of the game....but that's not what the scoreboard reflected.
This game got physical, and it got physical fast - both sides leveled some big hits early, but Rick Nash was fighting off borderline plays from guys like Krys Barch, Adam Burish, and Steve Ott all night - all of which went uncalled. In response, the Jackets dialed their own aggression up, and not surprisingly, Jared Boll, Tom Sestito, and Derek Dorsett found themselves in and out of scrums all night, including lengthy game misconduct penalties in the third period.
But, that's not why you're reading.
You're reading because you want to hear about how Dallas could win a game where they were outshot, outchanced, outhit, out-faceoffed, and generally outplayed?
Well, in the words of the Associated Press? They had a little help.
In fact, while all credit is due to Kari Lehtonen for playing a marvelous game, and to Brad Richards for his two goals, the fact remains that the Stars had more than the benefit of the doubt from the referees - they got several game changing calls that the Jackets, sadly, were unable to overcome.
The first chain of events began a bit past the middle of the first period, when Jake Voracek was slashed in the back of the legs, shoved his attacker back in response, and was given a roughing penalty that could be called...borderline, at best. Perhaps an attempt to reign in the chippy play after a Barch / Sestito fight? Perhaps.
Then, as the Jackets' PK went to work, things got worse - Marc Methot, trying to clear Steve Ott away from the crease, was given a crosschecking penalty, putting the Jackets down by two men for over a minute.
The PK stayed solid, thanks to the Stars' habit (as helpfully pointed out to me by Tom of The Dark Blue Jacket) of shooting wide from the perimeter. In fact, things seemed to point to killing the initial penalty when, with just a few seconds left on Jake's penalty when Garon made a good save and a scrum developed in front of the net, including James Neal coming down from off the blue line, where he'd been playing the point, to get into Sammy Pahlsson's face.
Because the rules that the referees are supposedly familiar have a very specific guideline for what is supposed to happen in that situation:
Rule 76.2, paragraph 11: Following a stoppage of play, should one or both defensemen who are the point players . . . enter into the attacking zone beyond the outer edge of the end zone face-off circle during an altercation, gather or "scrum," the ensuing face-off shall take place in the neutral zone near the blue line of the defending team.
Despite this being a textbook example of the rule, and Scott Arniel trying to make his case for it, Referees Ian Walsh and Chris Rooney put the faceoff inside the Jackets' zone, and Dallas would score just after Jake had left the box - Sammy Pahlsson lost his stick after it broke blocking a shot from Neal, and Stephane Robidas
and Mike Ribiero would cycle the puck around until they could get it to an open Brad Richards, who smoked a shot through traffic in the slot, beating Garon.
Despite the frustrating situation, the Jackets continued to hammer Lehtonen before a truly...bizarre play unfolded with a just under a minute to go in the first period. On what amounted to a full 5 on 3 rush up ice,the Jackets collapsed around the Dallas Net, with Anton Stralman
flipping the puck to Ethan Moreau
, who fired it on net from the far left side of the goal line. Lehtonen was unable to get his glove down on the puck, and Fedor Tyutin
was able to scoop it into the net before being bowled over by the Dallas defense, giving the Jackets the late period tying goal.
Going into the second period, the Jackets drew energy from the clutch tally, unloading on Dallas and denying them a single shot on goal for almost half of the period. Despite being unable to convert on several power play opportunities (including Antoine Vermette
shooting high on a BEAUTIFUL feed from Rick Nash, who was waiting behind the net), the Jackets appeared to have finally cracked the lead when Derek Dorsett got to a rebound that squirted through traffic, wristing it into the open net as Lehtonen challenged Ethan Moreau's screen from OUTSIDE of the crease.
Instead, Rooney immediately began waving off the goal, to the confused frustration of the Jackets and the crowd. At first, it appeared that Moreau would be called for goalie interference - even stranger, because he was clearly outside of the crease, and it had been Lehtonen who initiated contact with HIM, not the other way around. How can it be goalie interference when the goalie does the interfering?
A few moments later, the Jackets were back to a faceoff, but no penalty...and no goal? I'll give you to Puck Rakers for the explanation
It is rare, but not unprecedented, for a goal to be waved off without a penalty. However, this one just doesn’t fit because the referee – as well as the war room in Toronto – said Rule 69.3 was cited in this specific infraction.
Rule 69.3 deals with contact inside the goal crease. The short version: If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
This whole rule is based on the following definition: a player "establishes a significant position within the goal crease" when, in the Referee’s judgment, his body, or a substantial portion thereof, is within the goal crease for more than an instantaneous period of time.
Here’s the problem: Moreau was never in the crease. Stars defenseman Matt Niskanen shoved Moreau toward Lehtonen, who came to the top and then outside of his crease, where he briefly caught skates with Moreau. The goalie stumbled as he tried to reverse direction. Moreau had his back to the net and couldn’t do anything intentional, anyway.
Essentially, what happened was the ref blew his whistle because he thought there was contact within the crease, and there wasn’t. Rooney blew the call.
I wasn't aware this went to the war room - from inside the game, there was no mention of it going upstairs.
But that makes it even stranger. Why?
Well, that means they had video evidence that there was no interference...and that it was a good goal.
Moreau is outside the crease, setting a legal screen. That's a good goal, and every summary I've seen of the game from local or national media has said the same thing. Hell, Moreau isn't doing anything that Tomas Holmstrom
doesn't do, and Holmstom has defined his career by that type of play!
As we watched the game, my friends and I sat back in our seats and quietly hoped that it wouldn't matter - and given the way the Jackets seemed to get even more physical as a result, it actually looked like the waved off goal might just fire them up into winning the game regardless of the play.
However, in the third period, it went south.
Hejda stayed in the passing lane, but could not force either puck carrier outside of the slot, giving them a good narrow shooting lane against Garon, and Brad Richards picked his spot to fire it past Garon to the high glove side.
It was a stop that, 99% of the time, Garon probably makes...but it was that kind of night.
The Jackets were again unable to convert on late opportunities in the third, and attempted to pull Mathieu Garon
for the extra skater, but another penalty, this time a Slashing call on Vermette (despite the fact that Dallas got away with smashing Rick Nash's stick out of his hands a few moments earlier), put the Jackets on the PK and sealed the game for the Stars.
Ugly, ugly loss. The crowd of nearly 14,000 let the Refs hear it frequently, but it didn't change the fact that Dallas got two points, and the Jackets walked away frustrated and empty handed.
Final Score: Dallas 2 - Jackets 1
- Fedor Tyutin - His goal was, at the time, a clutch moment, and I thought he played a strong game in the absence of Rusty Klesla, who was scratched for the game after taking the morning skate.
- Derek Dorsett - Even without the waved off goal, Dorsett did a good job of playing hard without getting himself into excessive penalty trouble, and clearly seems to still be in the "Two points matters more than anything else" mentality.
- Mathieu Garon -Garon had a great game, despite it all, including a couple of highlight reel stops to keep the Jackets within one.
Bottom Of The Barrel -
- Officiating - Enough said.
- Antoine Vermette - During warmups, I noticed that Jared Boll spent a little time around the net after most of the team skated off, tipping pucks in from the paint and the sides of the net, then shooting the last couple of loose pucks in from the slot. Maybe Vermette should take notes - he had three chances last night to put the team up, or get the tying goal, and went high or wide each time. In fact, the Rick Nash feed from behind the net I mentioned was almost a mirror image of the feed and shot he whiffed on against Roberto Luongo earlier in the week - feed from behind the net, alone in the slot, goalie went down, all he had to do was flip it in over his back, and he shot about five feet too high. Bad enough it happened once, but twice in the same week? Good god.
- Power Play - Five chances, including a two man advantage, and too much time was spent passing, and not enough shooting or generating rebounds - Kristian Huselius was particularly troublesome with this, and coughed up the puck a couple of times to the penalty killers on weak passes or bad decisions where he ran out of space.
This is the kind of game that people just look back on and shake their heads - the team really, genuinely, played better than their opponent....but sometimes, as the joke goes, life just ain't fair. We blame the third jerseys, we blame the almuni night bringing back bad luck, we blame the refs....but life just ain't fair, and sometimes it has a habit of really hitting you in the face with that fact.
The Jackets will be back in action Tuesday at Nationwide against the Calgary Flames
. The puck drops at 7pm.