While most around the hockey community seems to believe that Alex Ovechkin was simply robbed of a goal last night in Montreal, and that as a result his team was robbed of a chance at history, there is a flip side to the coin.
Last night on NHL Network's On the Fly, they cited Rule 78.5 (v) on the play as the reasoning for the goal being disallowed. Here's that rule:
78.5 Disallowed Goals – Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee and the appropriate announcement made by the Public Address Announcer for the following reasons:
(v) When an attacking player has interfered with a goalkeeper in his goal crease.
It's true that the attacking player in this case, Ovechkin, never actually touched the goaltender, Carey Price. But it was Ovechkin's action that pushed Hal Gill, a Montreal defenseman, into Price. That's what the NHL is saying here.
What is most mystefying to many, is that if Ovechkin did interfere with Price as was judged, why was there not a penalty call? It's a good question, and the answer is a simple one. A minor penalty cannot be called once a play is over. In other words, since the whistle had blown and the play had ended, a penalty could have only been called against Ovechkin if an infraction had been signalled at the time of the incident.
Also curious is how a goal can be disallowed after an official points out that it is a goal on the ice. That answer is equally simple. The on ice official's only task in judging goals is to signify that the puck has indeed fully crossed the goal line. Again, in other words, what goes on beyond the parameter of the puck crossing the line can be brought into play after the fact.
There is another rule that comes into account as well. That's Rule 69.1, here:
69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper - This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed.
Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgment of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.
For purposes of this rule, “contact,” whether incidental or otherwise, shall mean any contact that is made between or among a goalkeeper and attacking player(s), whether by means of a stick or any part of the body.
The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player.
Emphasis mine. It's clear that both of these rules, while not spelling out the distinct situation where an attacking player knocks a defending player into the goaltender, say that the goalie needs to be able to make a stop unhindered. This is what the NHL is trying to say in this case, but there is hypocrisy involved on their part. As pointed out by Adam Gretz at Fanhouse, Caps fans remember a situation like this well.
In the Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Philadelphia's Patrick Thoresen knocked Washington's Shaone Morrison into goaltender Cristobal Huet. With an empty net, the Flyers easily scored on the play and would go on to end the Caps season in overtime.
There are arguments both ways, but the NHL clearly isn't consistent in their implementation of these rules. No matter what, fans on both sides of the argument have a clear case here and the League needs to do a better job of making this stuff more black and white.