Justin Williams has been a terrific playoff performer over the years. So good, perhaps, he ended up on the right side of a controversial call that helped give the Kings the lead in the third period in Game 6.
With the game tied 1-1 and the Kings facing elimination, Williams tipped a point shot from Robyn Regehr. It appeared Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock had the puck controlled under his pads. Williams then poked it through Stalock and over the goal line.
There was no whistle on the play, but referee Chris Lee sure looked like he wanted to blow it. In fact, he had the whistle just about to his lips before the puck crossed the line and he pointed. This, in almost every other case we've seen this season, would have likely been waved off due to the infamous “intent to blow” rule.
After Lee briefly spoke with the league's Situation Room in Toronto, he informed the crowd it was not a reviewable play and the goal counted. The Sharks bench was incensed, naturally.
The intent to blow rule is murky. Goals can be disallowed “when the referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing his whistle” (Rule 78.5, subsection xii). At that point, it was up to Lee to deem the play stopped. He didn't and therefore it's a goal.
That was probably one of the slowest whistles we've seen in the playoffs, though, which is why Lee will rightly come under fire. Did Stalock have control of the puck? Did Lee lose sight of it? Only Lee can know that, but after reviewing the video a few more times, there is a good case that it was loose beneath Stalock and therefore the play was still alive. That said, the appearance of him going to blow the whistle won't help his cause either.
There's another potential infraction at play here that could have led to the goal being disallowed. As retired NHL official Kerry Fraser noted on Twitter, the goal could have been disallowed with Rule 69.6, which addresses rebounds and loose pucks. Here's the pertinent part of the rule:
In the event that a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck by an attacking player after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed. If applicable, appropriate penalties will be assessed.
In the event that the puck is under a player in or around the crease area (deliberately or otherwise), a goal cannot be scored by pushing this player together with the puck into the goal.
This is where a judgment call has to be made on the ice by the referee as this is not a reviewable play. Williams definitely pushes Stalock and the puck, which would have been grounds for the goal being waved off.
The Kings scored two more goals over the next three minutes to take control of the contest and force a Game 7 with a 4-1 win. Think this is a big moment in the series? Yeah, it's huge.
After the game, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was still fuming and did not hold back on his thoughts of the goal.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan, on Williams' jab-in goal: "We got cheated. Simple as that."— Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) April 29, 2014
He'll likely be fined for that, but that's a lot of frustration boiling over from the situation the Sharks are in and the severity of the call. It unquestionably changed the game.
The Sharks also have to look in the mirror a bit after giving up a 3-0 lead. As bad as the call may have been, they probably shouldn't even be in this situation considering how they started the series.
Either way, McLellan's outrage over the call sure seems warranted. There's nothing they can do now, though.
Game 7 is set for Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.