With their 2-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night the Minnesota Wild are now facing elimination and are without two of their top players — Zach Parise and Ryan Suter — for the remainder of the series. It is not a great position to be in as the series shifts back to Winnipeg later this week where the Jets can end it on home ice.
Adding insult to the loss on Tuesday is the fact the Wild feel they were robbed by the way the on-ice officials allowed Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey to get away with a vicious cross-check to the head of forward Eric Staal late in the first period.
Morrissey was not only allowed to stay in the game, he was not even penalized and then recorded an assist on the eventual game-winning goal in the final minute of the first period.
With the Jets clinging to a 1-0 lead late in the third period, they added an empty net goal to put the game away. An empty-net goal that never would have been scored had the game still been scoreless, as the Wild thought it should have been had the on-ice officials correctly called the cross-check.
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“My take is the same take as everybody in the building that saw it,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau after the game (video here). “The refs looked at it and they decided not to call it because we were already on the power play. Cost us the game.”
It wasn’t just the fact that it cost the Wild an extended two-man advantage or that Morrissey helped set up the winner that had Boudreau fuming after the game, but also the fact that Morrissey broke up a breakaway by Wild forward Nino Neiderreiter in the second period.
“We had chances in the second period,” said Boudreau. “Dumba had a great chance and Hellebuyck made great some save on a couple. Nino has a breakaway and it’s Morrissey that breaks it up. He should be out of the game. I can’t believe … still a little heated about it. Got to watch what I say. They were looking right at it and they told us they didn’t see it.”
Morrissey said after the game he never intended to get his stick up that high and it was simply a “complete accident as he was trying to box out on the penalty kill.
Staal was not buying it, or, more accurately, simply did not care about the excuse.
“He cross-check me,” said Staal. “I’m the tallest guy on the ice, he cross-checked me in the neck. There’s not much more you can say. Everyone saw it. I don’t know no one with straws saw it, but that’s beside itself. It is what it is. We go from possibly, should be a 5-on-3 to a goal against eventually and that’s the game-winner.”
The Wild are absolutely correct to to argue that Morrissey should have been thrown out of the game (and he should be suspended) and that the missed call played a huge role in the outcome. Morrissey not only assisted on the game-winning goal, he also played a strong game defensively.
Did that cost them the game, as Boudreau argued? Well, it would also be correct to argue that they had 58 minutes the rest of the game to make something happen or get on the scoreboard and they did not do it.
“It’s pretty obvious that somebody has to step up,” added Boudreau later in his press conference. “This was a 1-0 game that should have been a 0-0 game going to overtime at this stage. Our guys worked their butts off and they didn’t get rewarded for it. Winnipeg played well and they got a goal.”
More: Josh Morrissey cross-checks Eric Staal in the head; should he be suspended?
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.