Here we are again: Another case of controversial officiating in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and another situation in which the San Jose Sharks have benefited from that officiating.
The Sharks won Game 3 of their Western Conference Final series against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night, doing so in overtime as Erik Karlsson scored his second goal of the game to give San Jose the 5-4 victory. But Karlsson's goal was made possible by an apparent hand pass from teammate Timo Meier, who swatted the puck out of mid-air to help his team gain possession and set up Karlsson's winner.
After Meier batted down the puck with an open hand, Gustav Nyquist collected it and dished to Karlsson for the one-timer to end it.
The @SanJoseSharks take a 2-1 series lead with @ErikKarlsson65's second of the night. #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/wEM36Zsgu6— NHL (@NHL) May 16, 2019
The issue here is that officials should have blown the whistle after Nyquist touched the puck following Meier's hand pass. The NHL rulebook allows some discretion by the on-ice officials, but it's pretty clear that Meier's swat provided the Sharks with an advantage that allowed them to retain possession in the attacking zone.
By the language of the rulebook, it certainly seems like this should have been ruled a hand pass and there should have been a stoppage, even if the puck grazed the leg of a Blues defender before Nyquist gathered possession.
Here's the Hand Pass rule: pic.twitter.com/FBnRz6swfZ— Scouting The Refs (@ScoutingTheRefs) May 16, 2019
Unfortunately, apparently no member of the on-ice officiating crew saw the play unfold and, as a result, it was ruled a good goal on the ice. And even more unfortunately for the Blues, the hand pass rule isn't reviewable after the fact. St. Louis players furiously protested the call while the officials briefly huddled, then proceeded to timidly skate off the ice.
After the game, Blues coach Craig Berube was understandably irked by the call, but he didn't seem eager to talk about it.
Here is @StLouisBlues' Craig Berube's response to the end of #SJSvsSTL. pic.twitter.com/1dx3ds5X2O— #StanleyCup on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) May 16, 2019
It'll be interesting to see if the NHL releases a statement (or apology) addressing the end of the game. The league apologized earlier in this postseason and admitted that officials wrongly gave Vegas Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin a cross-checking major in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Sharks. Eakin's major paved the way for the Sharks to score four goals on the ensuing power play, allowing them to climb back in the game and eventually win in overtime.
The Sharks also got a major break in Game 7 of their second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche when the Avs had the potential game-tying goal wiped off the board thanks to a controversial offside call in the second period. The Sharks narrowly won that game to punch their ticket to the West final.