It was the goal heard around the hockey world. Or at least, the province of Alberta. And, no, we’re not talking about Connor McDavid’s thrilling 5-4 overtime winner that pushed his Edmonton Oilers into the Western Conference final and ended the Calgary Flames’ season.
We’re talking about the goal by Blake Coleman late in the third period. The one that didn’t count.
You can’t say without a doubt it would have been the game-winner. There were still a little more than five minutes left in regulation. But it would certainly have put the Flames in prime position to extend their series beyond Game 5.
Mikael Backlund made a killer move and snapped a hard shot that beat Mike Smith. There would have been no doubt that goal would have counted had a falling Coleman not punched the puck in off the blade of his skate.
Despite the fact the puck was already going in with no one near enough to stop it, the review determined Coleman kicked the puck in and the goal was disallowed.
Much to the dismay of a disappointed Calgary Flames crew.
“I asked (referee) Wes (McCauley) what the call was,” head coach Darryl Sutter said post-game. “He said ‘distinct kicking motion.’
“Somebody’s laying on the ground and you lift your foot up and kick him in the head, that’s a distinct kicking motion. If your foot’s on the ground, it’s not a distinct kicking motion. Whatever.”
You can’t pin a seven-game series on one waved-off goal. That’s ludicrous. Sutter mentioned many missed opportunities that went the other way.
“Quite honest, the series was about Games 2, Games 4 and Games 5 — they were all tied in the third period, halfway through. And they scored the big goal.”
And still, the sting of the takeaway will be felt for hours, days, maybe weeks.
Especially because it’s so hard to explain.
Other goals were waved off in this series, with two being blown dead in the same game in Edmonton when the refs lost sight of the puck and thought it was covered. There was a goaltender interference call that went against McDavid, too.
Those were relatively cut and dry.
“I don’t know, I don’t think I understand the rule,” Coleman said after a long pause when asked about the call. “Getting pushed, just tried to keep my foot on the ice. I haven’t watched it enough but in live speed, I felt like I was in a battle and my understanding is you can direct the puck but you just can’t kick it. I didn’t feel that I kicked it.
“It’s unfortunate that was such a big part of the game and happened to influence the way it all went down. But aside from that, proud of our team. We fought hard and I wish that would have helped put us over to another game.”
Sutter was also proud of his players. The team is often asked what the Calgary Flames head coach offered in the room following a big moment. It’s usually crickets. Asked what you say to the group after a devastating season-ending loss on an overtime goal scored by the best player in the world, Sutter was more forthcoming.
“Get your chin up and your chest out and walk out proud,” he said. “They did a hell of a lot more than anybody said they’d do.”