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The No Goal That Broke The Devils’ Back

Three days after a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Devils’ continue to struggle to find consistent play. A mere 72 hours ago, the team seemed to claw themselves back into a game. Down 3-1 at the end of two periods, New Jersey finally found a way to rally to tie in the third.

The euphoria wouldn’t last, as the goal was disallowed by officials for kicking the puck. The ruling, upheld by league officials in Toronto, deflated the Devils and helped contribute to their recent terrible stretch of games. In this post, I’ll take a look back at the disallowed goal and discuss the ramifications of the disallowed goal.

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Here’s the setup: The Devils are down by one goal when Mike Fisher is whistled for interference. The Devils powerplay, which already scored twice in the game, had yet another opportunity. Devils coach John MacLean sent out five forwards on the powerplay, looking for the game-tying goal. And with 3:40 in the period, it seemed like the Devils got their wish.

Photo Credit: NHL.com

After a scrum in the front of the net, the puck sat loose in the crease. David Clarkson (top right) came crashing down on net, ready to put the puck into the open net for the game-tying goal.

Photo Credit: NHL.com

Clarkson took a swipe at the puck, but missed with his stick. His momentum carried him into the crease, and his skate made contact with the puck:

Photo Credit: NHL.com

Here’s where the debate began. In the eyes of Devils fans and both Doc Emrick and Chico Resch, it looked like Clarkson glided into the puck. There was no kick, and it seemed like his momentum carried him into the puck. The Devils right-winger even attempted a second swipe of the puck with his stick, but he didn’t look like he made contract with it. Referee Bill Watson, however, disagreed. Watson argued that Clarkson kicked the puck, and the ruling from Toronto further clarified the ruling:

“We ruled the puck was propelled into the net with a distinct kicking motion,” NHL senior VP of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy told Tom Gulitti via e-mail: “We also looked to see if the puck was touched by Clarkson’s stick which it was not.”

Clarkson, of course, disagreed.

“I guess it just went off my skate, which it did, but I thought it had to be a kicking motion,” Clarkson said to Gulitti. “So, I guess (referee Brad Watson) said the NHL reviewed it and made that call because it did go off my skate when I shot it.”

For the ramifications of the call, read after the jump.

During the initial period, I was clearly upset with the call. Three days later, I feel the same way. At no point during the play did Clarkson make a distinct kicking motion with his skate. He glides up to the crease, and contacts the puck with skate only after whiffing on a shot attempt with his stick. The call would make sense if Clarkson kicked forward with the skate or turned his skate sideways. At no point during the play did either of those things happen.

The immediate ramifications cost the Devils the game. Clarkson’s goal would have tied it up, and the disallowed goal kept the Devils down one. They couldn’t score the equalizer, and the Devils lost their seventh straight road game. It looked like the team would gain at least one point, but left empty handed.

I believe that disallowed goal carried larger ramifications. New Jersey hasn’t had much go right when trailing in a game. Against Ottawa, it seemed like they finally broke through a wall. The effort resulted in a big goal that gave the Devils momentum. All that went out the window when Watson’s call was upheld. It felt like yet another curse from the hockey gods.

Only time will tell how the latest letdown affected the Devils. This disallowed goal seemed to break the will of the Devils’ players this weekend. For a team that hasn’t shown much resiliency or fight, this could have been the final straw.

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