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Pivotal Moment: Waved-Off Goal Gives Wild Second Life

Both the on-ice call and situation-room review were be ruled a no-goal because Dubnyk was pushed into the net

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

After having given up a two-goal lead via consecutive goals from the Blackhawks in the second period, the wheels seemed to be really falling off of the bus for the Wild as it appeared Chicago had struck again.  But while the red light was flashing, the referee was signaling that the goal would be disallowed due to contact with the goaltender and the score would remain tied.  Rather than being put into chase mode, the Wild were able to reset and go back to work on putting the game away.  Ultimately, after a few shifts of scrambled lines buzzing the Hawks zone at the end of the second period, Nino Niederreiter was able to bury a Jason Zucker rebound that left Scott Darling hung out to dry on the first shift of the third.  The Wild were missing Justin Fontaine after a knee-on-knee hit knocked him out of the game with an injury Mike Yeo described as week-to-week after the game.  But even down a man and playing with some random line combinations, the Wild had found a way to capitalize on a tired defensive squad who had played in their home arena just 24 hours prior.  The Wild also showed some guile and the ability to be steadfast as Chicago's potent offense pushed back, including a final 90 seconds of 6-5 hockey.  But the defenders and goaltender pulled through, finding yet another way to win that might show a bit of growth for a team that has been struggling in their own zone.

None of those decisive moments would have occurred had the goal been allowed.  The game would have taken on a much different complexion as the Wild might have begun to think "here we go again." as the Blackhawks overcame a goal scored 18 seconds in and a two goal deficit to tie the Wild before continuing to press into the lead.  This may well have led to a collapse in the mental fortuity of the local team, and sent them reeling.  But it didn't, and the result was a 4 point swing in the standings against a heated rival.

Here's a couple angles of the play to review (Thanks Alec Schmidt):

Rule 78 - Protection of the Goaltender states:

(a) If an attacking player initiates any contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed

The ruling on the ice was that Ryan Hartman made incidental contact with Devan Dubnyk, who had trapped the puck under his right pad, causing the puck to go in.  No penalty was assessed because the contact was incidental.

Under closer review, it is clear that Hartman does indeed make contact with Dubnyk inside the crease.  But it also shows that it may not have been the contact with Hartman that caused Dubnyk to move, as it might have been caused by the right skate of a crashing Nate Prosser.  It was a tough night for Prosser who had already tipped in a shot for the Hawks during a penalty kill, and failed to clear bodies out of the crease all night long.  While Prosser may have indeed caused the momentum to push Dubnyk and the puck into the goal, it was the initial contact by Hartman that was whistled by the ref prior to the puck crossing the goal line.  In this case the referee followed the letter of the law and made a good call, which Toronto agreed with upon review.

Let us not forget that the game came this close to being tied after the Wild scored:

Garbutt also had another shot stuffed by Dubnyk, who played a fine third period and stopped all 10 shots he saw to close out the win.  But this game was within a hair of going a very different direction, and the Wild capitalized on the chance the waived-off goal provided them to collect a win and 2 points, while holding Chicago with no points.  The value of doing that may be vital even this early in the season with the level of competition in the Central Division.  This is yet another game we may look back and think of it as a defining moment of the season.