Thanks to a new NHL rule, it can be risky business when deciding whether to challenge a referee’s offside call.
Third-year Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, breaking from what he said would be his strategy, took that risk Tuesday night in the waning minutes of a wild game in Nashville.
Ultimately, it was a decision that backfired and likely cost the Flyers at least a point in an excruciating 6-5 loss to the Predators at the reverberating Bridgestone Arena.
Some background: This is the first year that teams receive a two-minute delay-of-game penalty if they challenge an offside call after a goal is scored — and the video proves them wrong. Teams used to only lose a timeout if their challenge showed the play was not offside.
Prior to the season, Hakstol said that he would confer with video coach Adam Patterson before deciding whether to make a challenge and that he would be conservative in his approach.
On Tuesday, however, he said the challenge was his decision and not Patterson’s. Maybe he was protecting Patterson, or maybe he saw something on the video that made him believe Filip Forsberg was offside before Scott Hartnell scored a six-on-three goal, tying the score at 5-all with 1:17 left.
Hakstol would not elaborate on the specifics as to why he challenged the play.
After a video review, the goal stood, and the Flyers were thus given another penalty, putting them two men short. Nashville eventually deposited a five-on-four goal, scored by Forsberg with 35.6 seconds left for a 6-5 win.
The five-on-four was in place because of the “challenge” penalty.
Without the penalty, regulation probably would have ended tied, the Flyers would have secured at least a point, and they could have added another one with a win in overtime or in a shootout.
Earlier in the game, the Flyers had overcome a 3-0 deficit and taken a 5-3 lead. But their stirring comeback, which featured a pair of power-play tallies by Val Filppula and Nolan Patrick’s first NHL goal, was overshadowed by the late challenge.
If Hakstol was correct, Hartnell’s goal wouldn’t have counted and the Flyers would have had a 5-4 lead with 1:17 to go.
Instead, the game was tied and the Flyers had to put another player in the penalty box.
“Those decisions are tough,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “…You live by the sword and die by the sword, and you have to respect the guy because he’s trying to win a hockey game.”
But unless a coach is almost certain an offside violation occurred, the best bet is to take a conservative approach (especially late in a game), based on past statistics.
Last year was the second season in which challenges for offside and goaltender interference were allowed. There were 117 challenges for offside — 78 were upheld, and only 39 were overturned.
The crushing finish stung. After the game, some Flyers slammed the locker-room door, some heaved their duffel bags across the room in anger. Obscenities filled the air.
“We’ve got 78 more of these,” said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who had two assists in the game, “so we’re just going to look past it … grow from it and keep pushing forward.”