SUN Hockey Pool

'We wuz robbed' doesn't cut it

ERIC FRANCIS

, Last Updated: 6:52 AM ET

CALGARY -- WARNING: The following information may be more shocking to Flames fans than having two crucial goals waved off in a 36-second span.

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One day after Eric Furlatt was booed off the ice for as questionable a call as the Saddledome has seen in years, Saturday night's striped scapegoat was given a surprising pat on the back by his boss.

Not only was the 37-year-old referee not chastised or reprimanded for waving off an Olli Jokinen power-play goal in which Curtis Glencross was somehow called for goalie interference, he actually drew praise from NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom yesterday.

'BALLSY CALL'

"It was a tough call and a ballsy call but it was the right call - a great call," an emphatic Walkom told the Sun.

"Our guys are the first to step up if they do make a mistake. I think Mick McGeough showed that years ago. But if they haven't made an error they shouldn't be chastised for it."

No matter how objective you'd be hard pressed to find anyone at Saturday's game who thought the seventh-year official was justified in marring the celebration following Jokinen's twine-finding slapper late in the second period of a 2-2 game. Long gone is the ridiculous rule negating any goal in which a player's skate lace is in the crease, which is why many have a hard time fathoming how Glencross could've been flagged given how far outside the crease he appeared to be when the puck went in.

"If you take a look at overhead he's actually standing in the blue. That's what Eric sees," said Walkom who reviewed the goal in slow motion that night.

"Even though at the time of the goal he's not bumping him, if the goalie can't do his job it's no goal. There was incidental contact and the goalie was distracted and unable to get set for the shot. You can't visually interfere while the goalie is doing his job in the blue paint."

It should also be noted Furlatt could be heard repeatedly shouting at Glencross to leave Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom alone, which fuels the theory he had it in for Glencross if he came even close to the Minny keeper.

Walkom cited rule 69.3 which states: "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."

The play was not reviewable as it's a judgment call.

With all due respect to Walkom who defended his employee admirably, it was an overzealous call.

It could have cost the Flames the game, the division, accompanying home-ice advantage and millions in gate revenue.

"If our guys are thinking about all that on every play they'd never put their hand up," laughed Walkom.

"Trust me, you're not looking to disallow goals in the NHL. You're just trying to make the just call. Within 36 seconds he had two tough calls and he stepped up and made them both."

UNFORTUNATE

The goal called off a half-minute later for a high-stick deflection by Glencross was unfortunate for Furlatt as it appears the official with over 300 games of experience was in the right - a theory confirmed by video replay officials in Toronto. The two-call combo left a bad taste in the fans' mouths even though the point was made moot by Eric Nystrom's game-winner minutes later.

"We don't want to go back to toe-in-the-crease but we do have to trust the ref's judgment on this one," said Walkom.

"We still have to protect the goalies. It's such a fine line. This was a real close play and I support the call because I think its covered by the rules. All I know is watching and rewinding the play, it's a great call - and he called it in real time. It's unbelievable."

That's a good word for it.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA 


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