More than an hour after this one ended, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray was still locked in animated, but civil conversation with a trio of on-ice officials in the bowels of the Bell Centre.
There’s nothing wrong with a frank exchange of views, and in this case the Sens clearly considered themselves a deeply aggrieved party.
The tetchiness was surely amplified by a complete collapse in the final four minutes of the third period that saw the Senators cough up a 4-1 lead and drop a desperately-needed point in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
When little-used Montreal defenceman Francis Bouillon scored the overtime winner as Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner frantically tried to corral a loose puck, the Sens’ Bobby Ryan lost his composure and had to be restrained by the linesmen as he screamed at referee Eric Furlatt.
Lehner, who clearly believed he’d frozen the puck, slammed his stick against the glass, and a group of about 10 Ottawa players lingered near the penalty box, giving their two cents’ worth as Ryan continued his rant.
”It was against the pad, their goalie never had full control,” said Bouillon, who had perhaps the best vantage point before potting his first of the year.
Earlier, on David Desharnais’ tying goal with a skimpy 0.3 seconds on the clock, Ottawa captain Jason Spezza was plainly outraged either at Thomas Vanek’s bump on Lehner moments before (in fairness, the Austrian was cross-checked by an Ottawa defender) or when he appeared to hook a Sens player as they fell to the ice in a puck battle.
The Senators had been called twice for goalie interference earlier in the game – including one on Spezza where Carey Price clearly sold the call – and had also had a second-period goal disallowed amid nebulous circumstances.
The league issued the following statement immediately following a video review.
“At 14:50 of the second period in the Ottawa Senators/Montreal Canadiens game, the Situation Room initiated video review after the puck entered the Montreal net. The referee informed the Situation Room that after a referee's huddle, it was determined Ottawa's Colin Greening made incidental contact with Montreal's Carey Price prior to the puck entering the net. The referee informed the Situation Room that he had also called a tripping penalty on Montreal's Lars Eller during the play. This is not a reviewable play, therefore the referee's call on the ice stands. No goal Ottawa. Penalty Montreal.”
All well and good, except the original call on the ice was actually a goal: Furlatt pointed to the puck as it slid into the neat.
And after the review, he took to the in-rink P.A. system to announce that the call had been changed because net was knocked off prior to the puck crossing (which replays showed it had, making it the correct decision).
However, the league’s note makes no mention of the net, and if a penalty was called, how could it be incidental contact? And why was the call changed on the ice?
“That’s confusing for me,” Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said afterward.
Price’s summary of the evening: “That was a gong show.”
For whatever reason, unusual happenings have become prevalent when these two teams meet, as have arguments over officiating.
In February of 2013, then-Senator Jakob Silvferberg was whistled for a dubious goalie interference penalty, wiping out a goal in what became a 2-1 loss to the Habs in Montreal.
But the reffing gods smiled on Ottawa at a critical time, when Mika Zibanejad kicked a puck into the net late in a playoff game, keying a Sens comeback that would tip a series headed for 2-2 to 3-1. Price would be injured in the final seconds, Ottawa would close out the series in Montreal against backup Peter Budaj.
The ill feelings over Saturday’s officiating shouldn’t overshadow what was a thrilling contest, in which the Habs, left for dead late in the third period – Lars Eller’s first goal in 24 games, which started the comeback, didn’t even earn a smile from the Dane – were resurrected thanks in large part to the brilliance of defenceman P.K. Subban, who created three straight goals.
It was Subban’s stickhandle-and-pass to captain Brian Gionta that created the rebound for Eller to bat in at 16:38 of the third; just over a minute later, Subban was again the architect as he took a little off his slapshot and gave Gionta an opportunity to tip it past Lehner (43 saves on 48 shots).