Usually, it’s the players that decide playoff games.
But in the new-look Stanley Cup playoffs, coaches are having a bigger influence than ever.
Another coach’s challenge resulted in a huge momentum swing on Sunday night in Brooklyn, as Isles head coach Jack Capuano successfully overturned a Florida goal, correctly judging that Jonathan Huberdeau was offside prior to Aaron Ekblad‘s second period marker.
“There’s so much talk about that offside rule, but that was an incredible boost,” Thomas Hickey said, per Yahoo. “You could feel it in the building when they called ‘no goal’ and I think it gave us extra life.”
Hickey, who scored the eventual game-winner in a wild OT affair, might have a point. Ekblad’s goal would’ve made the score 3-0, a massive hole for the Isles. Instead, the Brooklynites found themselves down just two goals — and, moments after the successful challenge, Ryan Pulock scored his first of the playoffs to cut the lead to 2-1.
Nick Bjugstad would score to restore Florida’s two-goal lead but, as Hickey mentioned, the Isles had life. Shane Prince and Frans Nielsen scored to even things at 3-3, setting the stage for Hickey’s OT heroics.
Prior to tonight, the biggest — and most controversial — coach’s challenge happened during Game 2 of the St. Louis-Chicago series, in which Joel Quenneville wiped out Vladimir Tarasenko’s go-ahead goal after correctly judging that Jori Lehtera was offside.
Nobody knew how profoundly coach’s challenges — in their first year of existence — would affect the playoffs.
But it didn’t take long for everyone to figure out the answer.
“That was probably the turning point in the game,” Hickey said. “As stupid as it sounds.”