Edmonton got some big-time heroism from Nail Yakupov Thursday night, as the Oilers' first overall draft pick batted a puck out of mid-air with only 4.7 seconds to go, breaking Jonathan Quick's shutout and sending the game into overtime.
It was a thrilling end to a contest that had already been given quite the buzzworthy ending by the officials, when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' had seemingly notched the game-tying goal less than a minute earlier, only to have it called off, much to the dismay of the Rexall Place faithful. Thankfully, Nail Yakupov managed to render the non-call moot.
Watch the entire incredible sequence here, from the no-goal, to Oiler fans' trash-tossing fury, to their and Nail Yakupov's eventual glee when he made sure it didn't matter.
What a spirited celebration by Yakupov.
"It's probably my best feeling," he said after the game.
But, while the Nugent-Hopkins non-goal no longer matters, it's still worth a discussion, since it was a provocative and controversial call. Should it have counted?
The original call on the ice was that it was a good goal, but after Jonathan Quick argued the call, the officials reconsidered. Quick's complaint: he had been interfered with by Sam Gagner. He had a point. After all, Quick's position is typically excellent, but on this play, he was completely outside the crease, facing the end boards. That's very unlike him. The issue, of course, was that Sam Gagner was all up in his grill.
Since the NHL rulebook specifically prohibits grill-crowding of this magnitude, the officials reversed the call, not by video review, which was prohibited in this instance, but after briefly conferring, as they explained on the NHL Situation Room blog:
At the General Managers direction (March 13, 2012) a procedural change was requested to ensure that all available information at ice level is exchanged prior to the awarding of a goal. Following the scoring of a goal where there was traffic and action in the area of the crease and goalie interference may come into play all four officials are to come together in the referees crease. Once in the crease the team is to communicate all possible information in determining the validity of the goal. The down low ref is still to make a goal or no goal signal on the play and then meet with his colleagues if there was contact and action involving the goalie to discuss the play.
But Oilers' fans were furious. After all, Gagner was only in Quick's grill because he'd been driven in by the Kings' defender. And he wasn't interfering -- he was just trying to extricate him.
I would argue that, while he wasn't interfering with Jonathan Quick, he did interfere with Drew Doughty moments before. That should have been enough for a whistle right there, especially in a game where the officials were effectively playing penalty bingo. (Seriously, the Oilers got one for a faceoff violation and another for instigator with visor.)
But, if think Gagner got a bum rap here, you'll be pleased to know that he was vindicated shortly thereafter. The Oilers' centre kept his distance from Quick and scored the game-winner in overtime to ice Edmonton's stunning comeback.
What a game. Did we mention how glad we are that hockey's back?