- Kristen Shilton is a national NHL reporter for ESPN.
TAMPA, Fla. — Jared Bednar said there was “nothing” to the controversy surrounding Nazem Kadri’s game-winning goal in the Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.
Kadri scored midway through the extra frame to give the Avalanche a 3-1 series lead, with a chance to close the Lightning out in Game 5 on Friday.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper was first to say in his (brief) press conference Wednesday night that the goal shouldn’t have counted. Video replay appeared to show Colorado with too many men on the ice when Kadri scored, and that it was Kadri who made an improper line change seconds before Nathan MacKinnon got back to the bench.
Bednar said he watched the footage too but didn’t see anything wrong with how Colorado executed.
“I thought it was nothing, honestly,” he said on Thursday. “That’s part of the game. It’s a fluid game. You’re changing on the fly, everything happens. You look at that clip, you back that clip up — and I did multiple times just to see what they were talking about — and Tampa’s got two guys jumping on with their D coming off the ice from a zone away. I count 7-6 at one point. So that is what it is. That’s the way the game is played. I don’t see it as a break or no-break. I actually see it as nothing.”
Cooper and the Lightning clearly felt differently. And initially at least, it looked like Tampa Bay had a point. The NHL’s initial game sheet listed six players on the ice for that Kadri goal. The sheet was later amended to only list five.
The NHL’s official response was that a too many men penalty is a “judgement call” by the officials and not reviewable.
“Following the game, Hockey Operations met with the four officials as is their normal protocol,” the league said in a statement. “In discussing the winning goal, each of the four officials advised that they did not see a too-many-men-on-the-ice situation on the play. This call is not subject to video review either by Hockey Ops or the on-ice officials.”
On Thursday, Cooper apologized for the brief but seething postgame press conference, but still thinks the Avalanche should have been penalized before Kadri scored in OT.
“I [found] it odd that they got that wide open on the play, but there’s nothing you can really [see] from our angle on the bench. So the only way I can find out is I have to go back in the room and look at the tape,” said Cooper on Thursday, before the Lightning departed for Denver. “Then [I] have to face all of you five minutes after an emotional loss. And so I apologize for last night because that’s what you get when you have to speak to the media right away.”
Even so, Cooper still believes the referees “missed it” on the game-winning goal.
“The reason there’s a rule is [in case] you gain a significant advantage, and that’s probably what happened there. But that happens like all the time in line changes. It’s an inexact science. But the purpose of the rule is not to gain an advantage. So it’s too bad,” he said.
Colorado forward Darren Helm said he didn’t watch Cooper’s emotional post-game presser or engage in any of the drama surrounding Kadri’s goal. Cale Makar admitted being aware of the apparent issue on Kadri’s goal but hadn’t dug into the details.
“I haven’t really looked at it from different angles yet,” he said. “So I’d be a bad judge on [dissecting] that.”
What everyone agreed on was the impact Kadri had in his Cup Final debut. The forward had been sidelined since breaking his thumb in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against Edmonton on June 4. He had surgery after being boarded by Evander Kane and just resumed shooting pucks this week.
Kadri was determined to play in the first Cup Final of his career and made a splash doing so.
“He’s just been really consistent for us,” Makar said of Kadri. “Obviously, he went down with the injury there and [in Game 4] I feel like he played his role well and was able to keep his feet moving for most of the game. So you can’t ask for much more than that from a guy coming back from a couple weeks off.”
Cooper didn’t have injury updates on center Brayden Point, who missed his second straight game with a lower body injury; defenseman Erik Cernak, who left Game 4 after blocking a shot in the second period; or shutdown center Anthony Cirelli, who injured his arm in Game 4 but finished the game.
The Lightning are one loss away from seeing their chance to three-peat as Stanley Cup champion come up short.
“So that mountain’s a little bit higher. Well, at least we’re still climbing. We’re not out. [We were down] 3-1, 3-2 to Toronto. What the hell’s the difference?” said Cooper. “We still have to go on the road and win a hockey game. We were going to have to win a game on the road regardless. We didn’t have home ice. So why not tomorrow?”
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski contributed to this report.
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