By Stu Hackel
So you think its easy to be a referee? A goaltender interference call on this play denied the Washington Capitals a chance to tie the score on Thursday night in Dallas in the dying seconds of a game the the Stars won, 2-1. Alex Ovechkin is clearly in the crease, yet he wasn' the one who bowled over Stars goaltender Andrew Raycroft. It was Dallas defenseman Karlis Skrastins as a puck shot by John Carlson went in the net. Referee Dan O'Rourke, however, ruled immediately from his position behind the goal line that by standing in the center of the blue paint, Ovie prevented Raycroft from making the save.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was a tad dismayed by the call and said after the game (quoted in The Washington Post), ""If you look at the friggin' call, Ovie doesn't touch the guy. Their guy slides into the goalie and takes him out of the play and the one ref is telling me Ovie is in the paint. I want to know when that rule changed where you can't be in the paint if you don't touch anybody, you don't interfere with anybody. . . You want to know why I voted for a coach's challenge? There it is. It cost us two points."
Well, the Caps would have had to win in OT or the postgame skills competition to get two points, but the call certainly cost them one. In any case, is Boudreau right? Time to pull out the rulebook.
It's Rule 69 - Interference on the Goalkeeper. Now, there are provisions in there that allow a goal if the defender knocks over the goalie. But the rule also reads that a goal will 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" as long as the attacking player isn't pushed into the crease. And the emphasis there is ours, not the rulebook's.
In Section 69.3, Contact Within the Goal crease, it further reads, "If an attacking player establishes a significant position within the goal crease, so as to obstruct the goalkeeper’s vision and impair his ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
"For this purpose, a player 'establishes a significant position within the 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."
Ovechkin clearly went into the crease on his own and stayed there. No, he doesn't make contact with Raycroft. But clearly, interference doesn't have to involve contact. The gray area comes in when Skrastins decides to play bumper cars with his goalie, but in O'Rourke's judgment, that doesn't trump Ovie's crease violation, and he was there for more than an instantaneous period of time, whatever that means. The bottom line is that the Capitals took 39 shots and Ovechkin tied his career-high by going a ninth straight game without a goal, so it's tough to merely point to that play and call it the determining factor in the outcome. Giving Raycroft credit for a strong game would be more accurate. In any case, it looks as if the refs called that one according to the book.