At first, the Toronto Marlies were outraged.
Now they’re going to simply try to put the controversy of a blown call in Game 3 behind them and attempt to get back in the Calder Cup finals.
“We have to hold our frustration in check here,” defenceman Matt Lashoff said. “But it’s obviously something that they would definitely like to have back.”
The play in question came midway through the first overtime period on Thursday in what had been a scoreless game to that point. With several teammates still in the offensive zone, Norfolk Admirals defenceman Mike Kostka’s dump-in from centre ice hit the stanchion along the glass and kicked out towards the net.
Marlies netminder Ben Scrivens, who had moved behind the net to play the puck, then watched on helplessly as it trickled over the goal line.
An officiating crew that was led by two NHL referees (Marcus Vinnerborg and Jean Hebert) missed the fact that the play occurred on a delayed offside, however, ruling it was a good goal.
The AHL released a statement on Friday morning confirming the call on the ice had been incorrect.
Toronto now trails 3-0 in the series against a Norfolk team that has lost just three times in its last 45 games.
Rather than express outrage at practice on Friday, however, Marlies coach Dallas Eakins was conciliatory as his team prepared for a must-win Game 4 the next day.
“Never forget that @TheAHL is a developmental league for the referees as well,” Eakins posted on Twitter. “Players and coaches have made mistakes. We all move on.”
Eakins and his players didn’t appear to protest the goal immediately after it went in, and no one with the Marlies pointed out the officials’ mistake in their postgame press conferences.
Lashoff, however, noted that he and his teammates began to figure it out quite quickly after the game once the shock of the bizarre play wore off.
“There was a little bit of murmur about it while we were walking off the ice,” he said. “When we got back into the locker room everyone kind of thought about it and said yeah it was definitely a call that was missed.
“Our initial reaction was hey let’s go run back out there and tell them. But they can’t obviously change that call. It’s one of those things that makes you want to rip your skin off and go knock some people out at the time. But you have to be able to keep your emotions in check because we have a game to play tomorrow.”
Toronto Maple Leafs vice-president of hockey operations Dave Poulin was one of several members of the parent club’s staff that was watching the game from the team’s suite.
He said he and others in the organization realized right away the call had been missed.
“We questioned it immediately,” Poulin said. “It was clear... it wasn’t a close play at all.”
The fact that Eakins and company did not put up much of an argument after the goal went in drew some criticism online from fans, but both he and Poulin pointed out the call had already been made by the four officials.
The AHL does not have video review available for its games, and even if it had, offside plays are not reviewable.
“After they’ve motioned that it’s a goal, they’re saying it’s over,” Eakins said. “I yelled and screamed about a number of calls and they didn’t change any of those others ones. I guess we could have put on more of a show and really went after them more, but it was the craziest of plays.”
“It wouldn’t have changed the outcome unfortunately,” Poulin said. “Dallas is a pretty straightforward guy. Had he know the exact situation then... honestly I don’t think it would have changed anything.”
Scrivens also recounted why he was helpless to stop the puck on the play.
“It’s a car accident type thing,” he said. “It was slow motion. My immediate thought when I saw it was ‘oh there it is, it’s going to go across the front of the net and that’ll be close.’ Then as it was travelling, I saw the angle and was like ‘oh no.’
“It’s a one-in-a-million bounce. You can’t really change your game or change what you’re doing because of it because it’s a freak occurrence.”
Several of the Marlies said they were trying to simply forget the play had happened and move on, hoping they can win Game 4 on Saturday to force Game 5 the next day at home.
“We’ve got to move on because if we dwell on it, we’ve got no chance in Game 4,” Scrivens said. “I don’t foresee us having too many people dwelling on it too much. We’re going to be ready.”