TAMPA — As the Colorado Avalanche players streamed onto the ice to celebrate their overtime victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night, there was already frustration building from the Tampa Bay Lightning bench.
Afterward, the focus instead was on whether Colorado made an illegal line change that directly led to Kadri’s goal, which gave the Avalanche a 3-2 win on the road and put it firmly in control of the best-of-seven series.
The Avalanche holds a 3-1 series lead, with Game 5 set for Friday night in Colorado.
“This one is going to sting much more than others, just because it was taking on . . . it was potentially . . . I don’t know . . . it’s hard for me,” Cooper said in his short postgame news conference Wednesday night. “It’s going to be hard for me to speak. . . . You’re going to see what I mean when you see the winning goal. My heart breaks for the players because we probably still should be playing.”
While Cooper did not explicitly mention the infraction for too many men on the ice during his news conference, in which he took only one question before excusing himself, a closer look at the play shows why Tampa Bay, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, was upset.
The broadcast showed that the Avalanche had six skaters on the ice before Kadri scored. When Kadri made his move toward the net to beat Vasilevskiy, Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon still had both feet on the ice as he tried to jump off and onto the bench to complete the change. NHL rules state that skaters have to be within five feet of their bench and out of the ensuing play before a shift change is made.
On Thursday, Cooper made it clear he believed the officials got the call wrong on the ice but wanted to move forward and look ahead to the rest of the series.
“I got some excitement for Game 5, and that’s where now my mind’s turning on how to win that,” Cooper said. “Not [anything] we can do to turn back. They missed it. It’s unfortunate, but it’s water under the bridge now. Let’s go get ready. It should be a hell of a Game 5.”
Too-many-men penalties, even when a goal is scored, are not reviewable.
“A too many men on the ice penalty is a judgment call that can be made by any of the four on-ice officials,” NHL Hockey Operations said in a late-night statement. “Following the game, Hockey Operations met with the four officials as is their normal protocol. In discussing the winning goal, each of the four officials advised that they did not see a too many men on the ice situation on the play.”
The controversy only continued after the game, when the official scoresheet handed out to media listed six skaters on the ice for Kadri’s goal. The NHL later told reporters that was a mistake and that Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson was listed in error.
Avalanche Coach Jared Bednar said Wednesday night he thought the goal was good, no matter the narrative Tampa Bay tried to push. “I didn’t hear any confusion,” he said.
Kadri, who was playing his first game of the series after undergoing thumb surgery this month, said he also was unsure why Cooper would question the legitimacy of his goal.
“I’m not quite sure what he really was, what he was thinking of why it shouldn’t have counted. That kind of confuses me a little bit,” Kadri said Wednesday. “The puck hit the back of the net, end of story, so not sure why he would say that.”
Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh didn’t have too much to say about the call Thursday, noting that as a player, “you’re looking for every inch to get an advantage and try and jump into play.”