It was all looking so good for the Maple Leafs. A 4-1 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins after two goals were scored within the first minute of the second period and a 5-3 lead by the time the frame was over. Sure, they had a little hiccup in there, but they bounced back to restore a two-goal lead. Two points seemed to be coming down the pipe.
But then the third period happened.
The most important stat you need to know about the third period is the zero shots Toronto put on the board. Zero. Advanced stats or not, that’s ugly to anybody’s eyes.
James Neal brought the Penguins to within one again in the first five minutes of the third, but the real controversial play came a few minutes later. After Chris Kunitz brought the puck into Toronto’s zone along the boards and threw it towards the net and Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin came crashing into the crease. As the puck went underneath Jonathan Bernier’s pad, Malkin actually shoved the goalie into the net with one move, then the puck with the next. The goal was allowed, which tied the wild game 5-5.
Should it have counted?
The answer, of course, is “Oh My God No!” The NHL has enough goalie interference problems without a player pushing a goaltender into the net and being awarded a goal for it. How is Bernier supposed to play this?
The rulebook is clear as day on this, too, in case you needed convincing. Here is a piece of Rule 69 that applies:
The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
Pretty sure Malkin impaired Bernier's ability to defend his goal, by his actions. It was an inexcusable missed call that directly led to a game-tying goal.
But the Leafs still didn’t get a shot all period and ended up blowing a game they should have won because of disorganized defense. This loss said a lot about the state of the Leafs and showed just how far they have to go to gain the stability of a legitimately threatening team. Without the stellar goaltending they’ve gotten from James Reimer and Bernier this season, Toronto would be intently studying the top-end of the 2014 draft.
Toronto needs help in the defensive zone ASAP. This loss was ugly - and not just because of the officiating blunder.