Controversial decision that gave Kings overtime win over Oilers part of a league problem

Late Friday night in Los Angeles, the Kings and Oilers battled into overtime of a very competitive Game Three. There were plenty of physical battles between two Western rivals that don’t like each other.

The intriguing first round series is a rematch of a year ago. That one went seven. Eventually, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were too much for the defensive minded Kings. They overcame the diligent checking of Phillip Danault and Anze Kopitar to prevail. Edmonton went all the way to the Western Conference Final before getting swept by eventual champion Colorado.

If you like contrasting styles, then this is your kind of series. The high-flying Oilers love to get out in transition due to the ridiculous speed and skill of McDavid. He and Draisaitl can turn on a dime, making the game look easy. At times, McDavid is in video game cheat mode. His pair of power play goals from the same spot that beat Joonas Korpisalo were a perfect example. High glove and high blocker.

Draisaitl always steps it up in the postseason. It’s the 27-year old German superstar who has the better postseason numbers than his more famous Canadian teammate. That hasn’t changed. While McDavid (2-1-3) has been held without an even strength point in three games, Draisaitl has six points (3-3-6), including half at even strength. In 40 career playoff games, Draisaitl has 65 points (21-44-65). McDavid is 23-35-58 in the identical amount.

Obviously, Edmonton will need more from McDavid at five-on-five to win the series. He’s being shadowed by the gritty Danault. A good two-way center who can make life difficult. At one point in overtime, the other night, he checked McDavid along the wall and kept him there. Oilers fans didn’t like it, but it was clean due to the puck being there.

Moments later, the Kings would get the winner when Gabe Vilardi set up Trevor Moore for the winner at 3:24 in overtime. They won it due to an undisciplined penalty from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a slash on Alex Iafallo. It wasn’t much. But if you break the stick, it’s automatic.

What isn’t is the mystifying way the officials determine controversial calls like the one that led to the Moore power play goal that gave the Kings a two games to one lead on the exasperated Oilers.

Prior to the goal, there was a play where it sure looked like Vilardi knocked down the puck with a high stick. It happened close to the Edmonton net. When the puck bounced off Mattias Ekholm, Vilardi retrieved the puck and made a perfect feed in front for a Moore finish that ended matters.

However, the Oilers never left the bench. Immediately, McDavid went to the refs signaling for a high stick. That would’ve wiped out Moore’s goal. He was on the ice for the play. The officials then went to a lengthy video review to determine if Vilardi illegally touched the puck.

Given the amount of time it took, many observers felt it was conclusive. It sure looked like Vilardi’s high stick made contact with the puck in mid-air. Even though the puck went off Ekholm’s back, that’s not considered possession. So, the play probably should’ve been blown dead.

Instead, the missed stoppage allowed Vilardi to make a good play from behind the net. His pass for Moore allowed him to beat Stuart Skinner far side from too easy a position. Nobody took him. Controversy or not, that can’t happen. Neither should the Oilers be taking undisciplined penalties that have cost them in Games One and Three.

The issue is why even have video review if they can’t get it right. Even if you have the opinion that you can’t tell whether the puck changed rotation, even more replays from different angles seemed to indicate that it went off Vilardi’s stick and then straight down. As usual, they ruled that it it was a good goal with the usual, “The call on the ice stands.”

Great explanation. Of course, we know that if they don’t feel there’s conclusive evidence, they can’t overturn a call. It just felt like Edmonton got robbed. When most hockey analysts disagree with the decision, that isn’t reassuring. You better believe all eyes will be on Game Four later tonight.

That is far from the only controversial call. We’ve seen refs miss blatant stick fouls during games. The Islanders were irate at no call in overtime of Game Two when Scott Mayfield took one up high. The Canes won the game moments later when Jesper Fast scored the winner.

Of course, it depends on your perspective. Former player Mike Rupp believes that the linesman didn’t make the call because Mayfield’s stick tapped Jordan Martinook’s stick to create the contact. It’s a pretty interesting explanation.

Whatever side you’re on, the Hurricanes won the game to take a 2-0 series lead. The Islanders never recovered in time to stop Jordan Staal from setting up Fast for the overtime winner that beat Ilya Sorokin short side. They lost 4-3.

At least they responded the other night with a 5-1 home win at UBS Arena. They even set an NHL record for the most goals in the shortest span. Following Kyle Palmieri’s power play redirection that made it 2-1, Matt Martin scored 44 seconds later. That was followed by Mayfield scoring from 180 feet away. Anders Lee then tipped in a Casey Cizikas shot to make it four straight goals over a playoff record 2:18 span.

Game Four is currently taking place now. The Islanders will need to rally to even the series. They trail 2-0.

You had a crazy game between the Maple Leafs and Lightning last night. Somehow, the Leafs rallied to win Game Three in Tampa 4-3 in overtime. Despite being dominated for large stretches by the Bolts, Toronto got a clutch game-tying goal from rental Ryan O’Reilly with a minute left. He was able to put in a rebound past Andrei Vasilevskiy, who gave up a bad goal when it looked like his team would win the big game.

Instead, it was Ilya Samsonov who stood on his head in overtime. He made a few huge saves when the Lightning were all over the Leafs’ net. That allowed O’Reilly to win an offensive draw back for Morgan Rielly, whose point shot beat Vasilevskiy for the shocking OT winner with 45 seconds left. Samsonov made 36 saves to steal the game. The Leafs lead the series two games to one.

The biggest highlight came when Rielly was involved in an unfortunate hit that sent Brayden Point flying into the corner boards. The Bolts’ Cup hero stayed down for a while in obvious pain. Nikita Kucherov immediately responded by going after Rielly. He gave him a headlock. This led to chaos.

Kucherov and O’Reilly fought. So, too did Steven Stamkos and Auston Matthews. It was an easy win for Stamkos. Matthews had never had a fight in the NHL. It showed.

Originally, they made a boarding major call on Rielly. But after going to video review, they determined that his hit on Point was clean. There was no malicious intent. Point’s momentum carried him into the boards due to the speed. It was unfortunate. It really looked like another major injury for Point. Astonishingly, he came back and didn’t miss a shift. A big break for the Lightning even though they blew Game Three.

In fact, the Leafs wound up with a power play due to Lightning goalscorer Darren Raddysh taking a roughing minor on Mitch Marner. However, they were completely shut down by the Lightning.

It really felt over after a terrific forechecking shift from Anthony Cirelli, Tanner Jeannot, and Stamkos with 90 seconds left. But the Leafs never panicked. Two icings doomed the Bolts. That allowed O’Reilly to get the equalizer. He also would win the crucial draw back to Rielly for his winner. That’s what they got him for. These exact moments.

If you’re the Lightning, there’s no reason to panic. They played a good game, which coach Jon Cooper pointed out. But they must get Game Four at home. I think most want to see a 2-2 series going back to Toronto. Then, it would be the best of three. Unless you’re a Leafs fan.

The misses in last night’s game between the Rangers and Devils were just as bad. Barclay Goodrow elbowed Timo Meier. Mika Zibanejad got away with a slash prior to Chris Kreider’s goal. The worst miss was Meier throwing himself on Igor Shesterkin, who got the extra for roughing. The Devils scored on the power play when Jack Hughes beat Shesterkin.

Essentially, both teams benefitted from calls that led to their first goals in regulation. The officiating continues to be bad. Whether it’s the speed of the game or the way they call it, it isn’t good. At times, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are hard to watch. The league needs to make changes, so there are fewer controversies during these games.

The Bruins proved why they’re going to be tough to beat. Winning without both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in Game Three. That showed off their depth. Along with the team structure, they took apart the Panthers 4-2 to take home ice back. Best wishes go out to Bergeron’s Dad, who’s fighting cancer.

When Alex Lyon was replaced the other night by Sergei Bobrovsky, the now backup goalie should get Game Four. Imagine paying $10 million for a backup.


About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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