Referees weren’t the issue in Panthers’ loss to Penguins


The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, falling in overtime after mounting a dramatic third period comeback.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest storylines of the game was the referees, as the men in black & white made a number of questionable calls, and it could be argued that they had an influence on the final outcome of the game. Perhaps the most controversial bit of action came off of a shot by Brian Campbell, that appeared to deflect off of either Reilly Smith or Rob Scuderi as the two battled for position in front of the net.

Though it is stated in the second Tweet that the goal was overturned due to Reilly Smith deflecting the puck with a high stick, that isn’t entirely true. From the NHL’s explanation of the call:

"Video review was inconclusive in determining where the puck hit the stick, therefore the decision by the on-ice officials stands – no goal [for the] Florida Panthers."

This particular excerpt from the NHL’s explanation incensed many Panthers fans, as it was rather clear that the referee closest to the net signaled that the play had resulted in a goal.

Some further reading of the NHL’s explanation, however reveals that the referees did change the initial call on the ice after convening in a huddle.

"The referee informed the Situation Room that he initially signaled a goal for Florida, but after huddling with the other on-ice officials determined that the puck deflected off the stick of Panthers forward Reilly Smith above the height of the crossbar before crossing the goal line."

The fact that the referees changed their on-ice call is a little odd, as none of the four were really in position to get a clear look at the puck. Here’s a screenshot from the play, at the moment when the puck deflected off of either Scuderi or Smith in front of the net.

The official that is in the best location to see the shot is the linesman on the left side of the screen, and he’s skating away from the action.

Regardless, the call on the ice was reversed from goal to no-goal, which is unusual, but entirely within the power of the officials. Thus, when the request to review the play was sent up to the video room, the inconclusive video evidence simply resulted in the call on the ice standing, and the Panthers not being credited with a goal on the play.

It was definitely odd, but there’s not much evidence that the referees were unfair to the Panthers in this situation. The end result wasn’t ideal, but overall, it can’t definitively be said that the Panthers got screwed on this play.

Beyond the controversial no goal call, however, there were also missed calls that had an impact on the game. Perhaps the most egregious was this hit by Kris Letang on Reilly Smith.

If this (rather obvious) penalty would have been called, then the Panthers would have had a 5 on 3 power play for almost a full two minutes. There’s no guarantee that the team would have scored, but it certainly would have made a goal more likely.

Salt was rubbed into the wound later in the game, when Jonathan Huberdeau was called for cross checking (with less than thirty seconds remaining) on a hit very similar to the one Letang laid on Smith.

Overall, it seems like the Cats got screwed, right? Missed calls and controversial goal reviews hurt the team, and they ended up losing when Evgeni Malkin found the back of the net in overtime, while Huberdeau was in the box serving his penalty.

Wrong. The referees missed calls that would have benefited the Pens as well, and the Pens also had a goal called back after video review (though, to be fair, the circumstances surrounding Pittsburgh’s no-goal weren’t as add as those that surrounded the goal the Cats had called off).

There’s this missed tripping call on Sergei Plotnikov, for example.

Brian Campbell may get to the puck, but new NHL rules state that this type of play should be called regardless.

"The rule relating to “Tripping” will be revised to specifically provide that a two minute minor penalty will be assessed when a defending player “dives” and trips an attacking player with his body/arm/shoulder, regardless of whether the defending player is able to make initial contact with the puck."

If this would have been called, it would have given the Pens a power play with five minutes left to play, and if Sidney Crosby and Company scored then, the Cats would be walking away from the game last night with zero points, instead of one.

The refs were fair last night. It may not have seemed like it at the time, but overall, each team had a goal called off, and each team had missed calls that could have resulted in power plays.

If there is to be finger-pointing in this loss, the fingers need to be pointed at the Panthers themselves. The team was dominated by the Penguins in terms of expected goals, and Roberto Luongo kept the team in the game.

With tough matchups against the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, and Washington Capitals coming up in the team’s next five games, the Cats will have to play better. The loss to the Penguins may sting, but the refs shouldn’t be blamed; Pittsburgh played much better, and the Cats can’t be outmatched like this if they want to make the playoffs this season.

Next: Jaromir Jagr Continues His Hot Start

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