The Winnipeg Jets and their fans are right to be rankled by rotten officiating that influenced the result of their latest game against the Minnesota Wild.
Inconsistent Calls Abound, Confound
The first play the Jets took issue with was a third-period non-call that led to the Wild’s game-tying goal. Defenseman Josh Morrissey took a clear hit from behind from Kevin Fiala, who saw the alternate captain’s numbers the whole way but drove him into the boards anyway.
However, neither Dan O’Halloran’s or TJ Luxmore’s arms went up and the play continued. A few moments later, Luke Kunin scored the equalizer with just 5:30 to go.
Morrissey was forced to briefly leave the game, but luckily wasn’t injured from the dangerous hit and was able to return.
While the Fiala non-call indicated O’Halloran and Luxmore had put their whistles away, they brought them back out in overtime. They nailed Blake Wheeler for a marginal slash on Mats Zuccarello, who dropped his stick fairly easily.
“Zuccarello kind of stumbles a little bit and the stick… I don’t think he had a good grip on that stick…” Wheeler told reporters. “At five-on-five, I think that gets let go. I think if he has a better grip on that stick it’s a nothing play. I think maybe the ref got a little fooled by the fact that he lost his stick, more so than the gravity of the offence.”Blake Wheeler on his overtime slashing penalty
“Goalie Interference, All Day Long”
On the Wild’s ensuing power play, they scored a controversial game-winner. Zach Parise, in front of the net and facing away from the play, launched himself into Connor Hellebuyck and prevented him from having a legitimate chance of stopping Eric Staal’s rebound chance.
Not only did O’Halloran and Luxmore miss the textbook case of goaltender interference on the ice, but the call was also upheld upon video review. It was ruled that Tucker Poolman and Anthony Bitetto, who were also in front of the net, pushed Parise into the Jets’ netminder (although upon reviewing the video, it’s clear that’s not the case.)
Head coach Paul Maurice was incredulous and media couldn’t believe the goal stood. “Unbelievable. Somehow the officials rule that goal counts. #NHLJets lose 3-2 in overtime,” Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mike McIntyre tweeted.
“That’s crazy. Looked like clear goalie interference. #NHLJets have a right to feel ripped off by refs today,” the Winnipeg Sun’s Ted Wyman agreed.
Even Parise was surprised by the ruling. “Actually, I didn’t think it would count,” he admitted post-game, “but I’m sure they looked at I was kind of, I guess, planted, so I wasn’t going to move unless their guy pushed me. So I’m glad that they saw that the same way.”
Inconsistent application of goaltender interference has plagued the NHL for years. The Jets are not the first victim of the constantly-shifting standards of what constitutes interference.
They actually weren’t even the only victims of the day — the New Jersey Devils got jobbed later in the evening as Mackenzie Blackwood was taken out by Matt Calvert behind the net, but the Colorado Avalanche’s goal, which was shovelled in when Blackwood was sprawled on the ice, was allowed to stand.
Jets (Mostly) Held Their Tongues
Unlike Columbus Blue Jackets’ head coach John Tortorella, who put the officials on blast late last month and subsequently received a $20,000 fine, Maurice mostly held his tongue despite feeling the officials blew it.
“That’s goalie interference all day long for me. I mean, there’s not a lot of grey area on that one,” he said post-game. “I’m not giving them any money. Not one dime.”
Several players — including Hellebuyck and Bitetto — outright refused to talk to media after the game, no doubt fearing they’d say something that would impact their pocketbooks.
Jets Must Move On
The Jets are right to be angry, but at the end of the day, they cannot control the refs, and Maurice said as much. “We’ll deal with the things we can get better at and try to improve on those,” he said. “That’s all I got. Anything else is going to get expensive, fellas.”
They need to move on immediately, as there’s plenty they can get better at — they’ve gone just 1-2-2 since the holiday break and are looking pretty sloppy these days. Among other things, they need to improve their goaltending, their tightness in the final frames of close games (they got outshot 16-4 in the third period against the Wild) and their passive and ineffective penalty kill that often fails to win faceoffs and make clean zone clearances.
Related: Jets’ Struggles Will Continue
They’ll need to be a lot better if they have any chance of winning any of their three games during their East Coast trip this week, which takes them through Montreal, Toronto, and Boston. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs put up six goals apiece against the Jets recently and the Bruins have lost just eight games in regulation all season and sit atop the Atlantic Division.