The Avalanche beat the Canucks in overtime on Saturday night in Vancouver, but the game got to overtime thanks in large part to a controversial goal that many Colorado players believed never should have happened.
With the Canucks down by two goals and the goalie pulled late in the third period, Vancouver was pressing with sustained possession in the offensive zone. Elias Pettersson attempted to rip a shot on net from the top of the circles but that shot was blocked by Colorado’s Matt Calvert, who was sprawled on the ice just in front of Pettersson.
Calvert blocked the shot with his head from point blank range and was in obvious discomfort but officials elected to let play continue as the Canucks maintained possession at a pivotal juncture. As the puck stayed live for several more seconds, Calvert struggled to get to his feet and was bleeding from the side of his head. He eventually got up but didn’t make it far before falling to his knees again.
Still, play continued and the Canucks went on to score on the possession, cutting the score to 4-3. As the goal horn sounded, Colorado players were clearly frustrated with the officials’ reluctance to blow the play dead as Calvert was in obvious distress.
Here’s a look at the sequence:
The NHL rulebook says that officials don’t necessarily have to blow the play dead in that situation, especially if the Canucks continue to maintain possession (which they did), but they may if an injury is considered to be serious enough.
Here’s the language from the rulebook, emphasis ours:
“When a player is injured so that he cannot continue play or go to his bench, the play shall not be stopped until the injured player’s team has secured possession of the puck. If the player’s team is in possession of the puck at the time of injury, play shall be stopped immediately unless his team is in a scoring position. In the case where it is obvious that a player has sustained a serious injury, the Referee and/or Linesman may stop the play immediately.“
Whether the on-ice officials didn’t consider the injury to be serious enough or they weren’t entirely aware of how ugly Calvert’s situation was, the whistle wasn’t blown and the Avs forward was left to struggle through the remainder of the play. With action finally stopped, Calvert was helped off the ice and exited the game.
The Canucks would go on to tie the score shortly after, then Nathan MacKinnon sealed the victory for Colorado with the game-winner in overtime.
But even after the victory celebration, MacKInnon and his teammates were still clearly ticked off that Calvert was left to fend for himself.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar also believed that play should have been stopped.
But it was Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson who may have had the strongest reaction to the way things played out.
“It’s a f—ing joke,” Johnson told the media after the game, per Ryan S. Clark. “You want to protect a guy? Guy’s got a family at home, he’s laying there bleeding out of his head and you don’t blow the whistle? It’s a complete joke. An absolute joke. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
With the language of the rulebook, it’s up to the discretion of the officiating crew on whether an injury is severe enough to warrant an immediate stoppage in play. You can understand that the officials might be rather hesitant to blow a play dead in that situation considering the Canucks had offensive zone pressure late in a close game, but one could certainly argue that a player bleeding from the side of his head after blocking a shot at point blank range is concerning enough to be considered a “serious injury.”
It’s worth noting that even Pettersson appeared to hold up a hand to gesture to the officials immediately after his shot struck Calvert in the head.
The Avalanche did not provide an immediate update as to Calvert’s status following the game on Saturday.