The goal that should have been: Caps loss a fraud

The Washington Capitals scored the same number of goals as the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday. The Caps only lost because referee Brad Watson called back one of their goals.

On the play in question, Capitals right wing Mike Knuble, pushed by a Canadiens defender, barely glanced the Habs’ goalie while on the edge of the goal crease.

The NHL rulebook says in this situation, the goal should be disallowed if “an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal.”

In this case, the only significant contact between Knuble and the goalie was Knuble’s skate, which did not visibly cause the goalie to move.

“That’s a violation that hasn’t been called all year,” Knuble said.

It’s not the first time the Capitals have suffered terrible refereeing in the playoffs. They lost a game seven at home two years ago against the Philadelphia Flyers on the penalty kill from a questionable call. And who can forget that the Pittsburgh Penguins had about twice as many power plays in last year’s series?

Notably, Knuble — and his then-teammate Flyers — nearly murdered the Caps’ goalie when they beat Washington two years ago. Then, Knuble largely got away with it. But now that he’s a Capital, a touch sensitive enough for a baby is enough to call back a goal.

The referee, Watson, was standing in a position such that the goalie was in the way of his view of Knuble’s contact with the goalie. It’s unlikely he was able to see the contact with his own eyes.

Under NHL rules, the play is not reviewable by video.

The goal tied the game at one at the beginning of the third period. Having it taken away sucked momentum from the Caps like a vacuum. The Caps had been dominating the Canadiens the last two games of the series with nothing to show for it because of the Montreal goalie’s unfathomably good play.

It is a bitter, bitter pill for Caps fans to swallow when a playoff series is decided by a referee’s clearly errant call. What makes it worse is the longstanding pattern of questionable refereeing for the Capitals in the playoffs.

Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau revealed the Canadiens had been quietly lobbying the league on the very question of goalie interference throughout the series.

Montreal “talked about us being in front of the net all the time to the supervisor. I don’t know if that had any effect or not,” he said.

Did the NHL’s famous bias for Canadian teams give Montreal an edge on the most significant moment of the series?

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