Last night, the Washington Capitals game winning goal was also the game's most controversial play. It left the Hurricane coach mad, Carolina's defensemen confused and Matt Hendricks and the Capitals very happy. But what preceded Hendricks chipping the puck into an virtually open net was a run in with Hurricane goaltender Cam Ward and Caps centerman David Steckel.
The Hurricane's cried foul, mainly goaltender interference on Steckel, and that the goal should be disallowed. At first glance it does look like Steckel interfered Ward from making the save. But all is not what it seems at first glance. Here is the play, video courtesy of NHL.com:
So by the commentary, you are probably wondering why this is a goal, right? Steckel obviously took out the 'Canes goaltender.
Okay let's break down the play. First the play starts from a point shot by John Erskine. That is him down there:
Steckel is coming from the corner to the front of the net. The first of the two pictures is a bit fuzzy because the camera is moving with the shot from Erskine but notice the path both Ward and Steckel take from the first photo to the second. Steckel is skating from board to board (or east/west or up screen to down). He is well away from the blue crease area while Ward is challenging the shot and moving into Steckel's skating path.
Actually Ward could be called for tripping as he interferes with Steckel who is falling in the second shot. Also notice the referee #38 Francois St. Laurent in perfect position to see the entire play. Next Steckel, who has at this time fallen to the ground because of Ward's aggressive play, corals the puck and throws it back to the slot.
Notice the official St. Laurent is signaling that Ward had initiated the contact, before the goal was scored, before Steckel is even able to pass the puck back to Hendricks. At this point Ward is out of position, but he is not being interferred from going back to make the save. Ward probably doesn't think Steckel is going to pass this to a wide open Hendricks who isn't on the screen yet. Also notice the two 'Canes players just standing and watching this all go down.
Last photo is Hendricks working his tail off to get to the slot, Steckel is no longer part of the play and the 'Cane defenders are badly out of position as is Ward. Hendricks will score and the goal will count. All of this happens well outside of the blue crease which is scared ground for goalies in the NHL.
If Steckel initiated the contact with Ward, it is a different story. The goal would be washed out and possibly even a penalty called on the play. But Ward's aggressive play put himself out of position, not the other way around. The goal is good, Caps win.
The Hurricanes can argue about the call all game long, but this did happen halfway through the first period. There were plenty of opportunities for them to get back into the game.