It certainly won’t go down in Calgary Flames history as the most controversial non-goal in club lore.
However, it sure may have felt that way for the legion of Flames fans glued to the club’s do-or-die matchup with Anaheim Wednesday night.
After all, it may very well have cost the club any chance it had at sneaking back into the playoff race.
With five minutes left in a second period dominated by the hosts, a scramble in front of Ducks goalie Ray Emery saw Matt Stajan knock a puck down with his elbow before a crowd of players converged to whack the bouncing puck over the fallen netminder and in to tie the game 2-2.
However, the official standing behind the net mere feet away had no idea if it crossed the line so took the easy way out by neither signaling for a goal or waving it off. Instead, he held his hands up while Flames nation held it’s collective breath.
A lengthy review of the grainy footage was admittedly too tough to rule on, prompting the announcement no one in Calgary wanted to hear from the ref: “The Flames are officially out of the playoff race.”
Oh wait, sorry. What he actually said was, “puck did not completely cross the line.”
This, after Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf can be seen on a TSN replay fishing the puck out of the net after the fact.
“No conclusive proof that the puck ever crossed the goal line,” was the official explanation from NHL VP Mike Murphy, who made the ruling from the NHL’s war room in Toronto. “The ref had no goal. We need conclusive proof to overrule.”
Fact is, with a little bit of luck and some better camera angles, the Flames could very well have slept last night knowing they’re weren’t completely finished.
Alas, the footage was inconclusive.
Murphy said it was unlike the situation in Vancouver earlier in the year when a puck under Roberto Luongo’s pads in the shootout logically had to be in as the goalie’s legs slid behind the goal line.
“We are never sure where the puck is, and if that IS the puck on Emery’s sweater, is it completely over the goal line,” said Murphy.
“But we have a ref standing two feet from the play, looking directly at it and ruling ‘no goal’ and we aren’t sure, so how can we overrule him? Also, we never see the puck relative to the goal line. Was the complete puck over the goal line? Too many questions to overrule the ref.”
But what about the non-committal by the ref?
“Pointing means goal,” explained Murphy.
“Everything else — wave off or arm up — means he didn’t see it in the net or over the goal line. When I spoke to him, he told me he had no goal.”
Alas, four minutes later Lubomir Visnovsky put the Ducks up 3-1 and the Flames never caught up, losing 4-2 despite an early third-period goal that made for a tense finish. A Corey Perry empty netter sent 17,000 deflated fans to the exits.
With four games to play, the Flames are six back of Anaheim, five back of seventh-place Nashville, three back of eighth-place Chicago, and tying any of them does no good due the tiebreaker that discounts the Flames’ league lead in shootout wins.
With Darryl Sutter looking on from the corner of the rink, the Flames’ playoff chances expired and die-hards won’t be able to stop talking today about the disallowed goal that ‘screwed’ them out their playoff hopes.
With five minutes left, the Jumbotron showed Sutter sitting while his son Chris danced and whooped up the crowd while the song Don’t Stop Believin’ boomed.
It’s time to stop believing Flames fans.
And the reality is last night’s disallowed goal has nothing to do with it.