Botched goal call leads to Ranger victory

[AP Recap] - [Boxscore] - [Extended Stats] - [Highlights]

It was ridiculous, to be honest with you. You start the hockey game, they push your goalie in the net. We've had about three goals in the last year disallowed for that exact reason. You're goalie has got to be allowed to make the save. You can't push the goalie in the net. If [referee Don VanMassenhoven] thought it was loose that's fine, but you can't push the goalie into the net whether you're going for the puck or not.

>> John Stevens

A great hockey game was played at Madison Square Garden tonight. In the midst of a playoff atmosphere, two heated rivals battled for every puck, every bounce, every hit, and every goal.

Well, kind of. Thanks to a missed goal call, that last one doesn't apply, taking a little something away from what was otherwise a magnificent performance by two playoff-bound hockey teams tonight.

If you have yet to see the first goal of the game, watch the highlights linked at the top of this post. The puck is deflected in on net and Martin Biron makes the initial save. It hits him and falls to the ice in front of him, where he throws his glove on top of it (that's when the accompanying photo was taken).  Biron clearly, indisputably corrals the puck into his body with both hands. It is covered and completely out of sight, which by rule means the play should be whistled dead.

Referee Don VanMassenhoven was out of position and scrambling to get there. He failed to blow the play dead when Biron initially covered the puck, and by the time VanMassenhoven was in position, the Rangers had already pushed Biron (and by consequence the puck) across the goal line and into the net.

Obviously, that means it's not a goal. But in case you don't believe me...

Rule 78.5: Disallowed Goals – Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee and the appropriate announcement made by the Public Address Announcer for the following reasons:

...

(ix)  When a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck after making a save.

....

(xii)  When the Referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing his whistle.

The goal shouldn't have counted. Period.

This would all be moot if the Rangers continued to pound the Flyers for the rest of the game, but that wasn't the case. Philadelphia rebounded very well from the botched call, putting a ton of pressure on Ranger goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The Flyers wound up outshooting New York 38-31 over the course of the game and for most of the second period, the orange and black absolutely owned the play.

Daniel Carcillo quite possibly had his best game as a Flyer tonight. Being thrown on a line with Danny Briere and Claude Giroux has its upsides, obviously. He had six shots tonight but was absolutely snakebitten -- robbed of clear goals at least twice by Lundqvist, to which the Garden faithful erupted in chants of "Potvin sucks!" "Henry, Henry!"

Down the stretch of the game, with New York leading 2-1, the Flyers continued to control the offensive flow. The Ranger net was peppered with shots, but Lundqvist had an answer for each and every one. Briere came the closest to putting one through when he rang a shot of the inside corner of the post, but it took a Blueshirt bounce and stayed out.

In the final two minutes, the Rangers really clamped down, another area in which they deserve credit. They didn't allow the Flyers to get any momentum through the neutral zone and effectively ended any chance of Philadelphia tying up the game.

But overall, if it weren't for Lundqvist playing like an absolute brick wall tonight, the Flyers would've won the contest. They played hard and they played better than the Rangers. Of course, you've got to give credit where credit is due; their goalie played a phenomenal game. But so did his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Marty Biron. If it weren't for the botched call in the first period, we would've seen overtime tonight. Both teams would've received a well-deserved point in the standings.

It takes a lot for me to complain about officiating, but tonight I feel just a little bit robbed. Robbed out of at least one critical point. Robbed out of what was otherwise an excellent hockey game by two quality teams.

This game meant a lot around the Eastern Conference playoff picture. For a complete rundown of what it meant for every team involved, continue after the jump.

 

Tonight's loss meant a lot around the Eastern Conference playoff picture. With the win, the Rangers clinched a playoff spot, as did Montreal thanks to an overtime game in Boston. All the Habs needed was one point, so despite falling to the Bruins three minutes into the extra session, they've still punched their ticket.

Our friends in Florida didn't get any breaks tonight. Their team won 3-2 over Atlanta, but they didn't get the help they needed in Manhattan or Boston. That's a damned shame too, because hockey in South Florida could really use the boost that a playoff run brings to a fanbase. But as we all know, there's always next year.

The Buffalo Sabres are going to have to wait until next year, too. There was a small bit of optimism for them entering tonight, and they did their part by drubbing Carolina 5-1, but it wasn't enough for them either. Montreal and the Rangers get the final two playoff spots, and now we're just waiting on positioning.

But oh, that positioning could change so much. The Devils beat the Ottawa Senators tonight to clinch the Atlantic Division, although I believe the Flyers failing to get a point tonight clinched it for them anyway. Boston, Washington, and New Jersey have clinched the top three spots in the Eastern Conference, respectively.

One more team will still earn home-ice advantage in the first round though. There are three teams in the running for that fourth spot: the Flyers, Carolina, and Pittsburgh, and the race really couldn't be any closer than it is right now. All three teams are tied with 97 points but Philadelphia holds the edge due to number of games played. The Flyers have two games left (Saturday at NYI, Sunday versus NYR), while Carolina visits the Devils and Pittsburgh visits Montreal, both on Saturday.

Carolina's nine-game win streak was snapped tonight by the Sabres, as already mentioned. I didn't watch that game, but I'm sure Bubba and Cory at Canes Country won't be too happy about things. They let a chance at taking sole possession of fourth place slip away, a very lucky break for the Flyers. The Pens on the other hand made easy work of the Islanders, a 6-1 final score. Things are tight, but the Flyers have the edge and still control their own destiny.

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