The Nashville Predators have won six in a row, moving a game above .500 and into the second wild card spot in the Western Conference following their 3-2 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
But when you win six straight, controversy is bound to arise at some point, right?
Yes, I’m addressing the elephant in the room that has Penguins media pundits and fans alike in an uproar Wednesday morning. It would be an understatement to say that Filip Forsberg’s game-winning goal scored 14 seconds into the overtime period happened without dispute.
Nashville Hockey Now’s Michael Gallagher provided the pluses and minuses of last night’s Predators win, as well as thoughts from the locker room, but the controversial no-call commanded the headlines.
“What an egregious no-call.”
“Those damn refs!”
The takes coming from Penguins Twitter and Facebook are as hot as they are abundant. But at the end of the day, it’s best to view the play as objectively as possible.
(A slow-motion view of the video can be found here)
First and foremost, as the play happened in real time, it was a judgment call by the referees. Not necessarily saying it was right or wrong, but nonetheless it was one difficult to make in the moment.
I personally thought it was interference at first glance. But the more you look at it, the more the no-call actually looks less egregious and less like a conspiracy.
As the video clearly shows, Penguins defenseman Erik Karlsson steps up and pushes into Ryan O’Reilly near the blue line. As the two are competing for positioning, O’Reilly sees Forsberg rushing forward through the neutral zone with the puck, so naturally, he attempts to stay onside and walks the blue line to the best of his ability. O’Reilly has every right to fight for ice to stay onside.
The controversy really arises when Sidney Crosby, who’s also watching Forsberg break in, collides with O’Reilly at the blue line, which gives Forsberg a clear path to the net. Crosby was defensively posturing with O’Reilly fighting with Karlsson for positioning. It could just as easily be said that Crosby interfered with O’Reilly.
Rule 56 of the 2023-24 NHL Rulebook governs interference, and, frankly, there’s a lot of gray in how to interpret this specific call.
In short, the situation was a judgment call in the heat of the moment. There is no right or wrong answer here. The controversy took on a life of its own simply because of the goal Forsberg scored moments later.
But the Predators could have easily raised similar issues with a few no-calls in the Penguins favor, particularly a too-many-men penalty that could have been called in the third period, or when Kris Letang played the puck without a helmet on.
NHL Rule 9.6. Not sure why the whistle was blown and no penalty was assessed on Letang there. pic.twitter.com/tm4jADcKgH— Jim Diamond (@diamondhockey) November 29, 2023
Agree or not, judgment calls are part of the game.
Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10