ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington slammed his stick against the glass as he and some of his teammates started to surround referees Marc Joannette and Dan O’Rourke as they began to skate off the ice. A few fans threw debris as boos rained down from all corners of the Enterprise Center.
The Sharks simply went to their dressing room, still celebrating another wild and controversial victory in a playoff season that’s been seemingly filled with such contentious moments.
Erik Karlsson’s goal at the 5:23 mark of the first overtime gave the Sharks an emotional 5-4 win over the Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday. But it didn’t come without controversy.
Off to the left of St. Louis net, Timo Meier batted an airborne puck toward the center of the ice with his glove. Gus Nyquist picked it up, then slid the puck over to Karlsson, who fired the puck past Binnington for his second goal of the night as the Sharks improved to 3-1 in overtime games this postseason.
Binnington immediately got up and motioned toward Joannette that Meier had made a hand pass.
According to NHL Rule 67.1, “A player shall be permitted to stop or ‘bat’ a puck in the air with his open hand, or push it along the ice with his hand, and the play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of the Referee, he has deliberately directed the puck to a teammate in any zone other than the defending zone, in which case the play shall be stopped and a face-off conducted.”
The Blues clearly felt that Meier directed the pass to Nyquist with his hand, but no call was made on the ice and NHL series director Kay Whitmore told a pool reporter after the game that it was “a non-reviewable play.”
“I know that sounds like a cop-out, but that’s the truth,” Whitmore said. “As the rules currently stand, the play is non-reviewable.”
“Yeah, it was a hand pass, but we’re going to try and move forward and the league is going to take care of it like they’ve done in the past,” Blues winger David Perron said. “It’s unacceptable, but it’s OK. It’s 2-1 right now. They didn’t give an explanation. I’ll just leave it.”
Meier wasn’t made available to reporters after the game, but Karlsson said of the play, “Well, we weren’t playing handball, were we? We were playing hockey, I think. We deserved to win this game and at the end of the day, neither team drew the shorter stick on any of the calls out there. So it was a fair game.”
Sharks center Logan Couture, who tied the game 4-4 with a minute left in the third period to send the game into overtime, said, “I was on the ice. (Karlsson) went down low so I actually curled up top. I didn’t see what happened. Turned back and I saw Karl putting it in the net.
“I saw their guys arguing. I wasn’t sure what was going on. Saw the refs talking. Still didn’t know what was going on. Skated over, talked to Jumbo. He said it’s a goal. Then I asked after what happened and they said it may have been a hand pass but I have yet to see it.”
Blues coach Craig Berube didn’t want to discuss in detail the lack of a whistle on Meier, but did lament his team’s inability to finish out a game that was theirs for the taking.
“It’s difficult to lose in the playoffs anytime,” Berube said. “We’ve got to move on. The team’s got to move on from it and get ready for Game 4. Really, that’s all you can do.”
Another non-call seemingly went against the Sharks midway through the second period, as it appeared Perron put the puck over the glass from behind the Blues net without it touching a Sharks player. No call for delay of game was made, and Perron went on to score two goals to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead.
“I didn’t see the review. From my point of view, I thought it went straight out,” Thornton said. “I don’t know if it did. But you know, the refs have a tough job and they only see it for a split second. I thought it was out, they didn’t see it that way and it kind of changed the momentum of the game from that point on, I thought, yeah.”