NHL defends no-goal call in Sharks-Sabres OT

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The referees got it right last night in San Jose, according to the NHL’s department of hockey operations.

Senior VP Mike Murphy, in speaking with CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, said referee Mike Leggo made the correct call in overtime on Tommy Wingels’ shot — which looked to cross the line well before the whistle — under rule 78.5, the infamous “intent to blow” rule.

“Leggo waves it off when the puck hits the post and starts to come to the net as a scramble develops. [In the NHL’s video review room in Toronto] we’re still looking at the puck off the post, then see the play with Leggo approaching net, putting the whistle in his mouth and he waves aggressively,” Murphy explained.

“Had we called a goal against Buffalo it would have been wrong, because it shouldn’t have been a goal.”

Once again, here’s the play in question:

Murphy’s explanation will likely come under scrutiny, because Leggo’s initial wave off comes well before his second. Leggo’s first motion comes at the 3:07 mark, and his second (with the whistle) comes at 3:04.

The NHL rulebook wording on 78.5 only adds to the confusion.

It states a goal can be disallowed “when the Referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing his whistle.” Of course, this makes it rather convenient to go back and pick the exact moment a referee “deemed” the play to be over, since there doesn’t have to be any emphatic gesture confirming it.

Murphy did say that, as far as optics went, the NHL should’ve reviewed the call with Leggo on-ice.

“The optics would have been better if we got him to put on the headset and asked what he was seeing,” Murphy explained. “We spoke after the game, I told him it did go in, we probably would get some pushback and should have gotten him over [to the headset] for the optics of the review.

“We should have done the headsets, because any controversy would have died.”