TRAIKOS: Colorado’s controversial OT goal was a big fuss about nothing

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TAMPA, Florida. – Much ado about nothing.

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A day later, that was Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar’s reaction to Nazem Kadri’s 4th overtime victory, which turned out to be packed with too many people on the ice.

It was a game that Tampa Bay Lightning head coach John Cooper called “heartbreaking” and assistant coach Derek Lalonde called “a pretty bad look” for the league. But Bednar, obviously biased in his opinion, saw nothing wrong with this.

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“I saw it,” he said before boarding a plane back to Denver for Game 5, where the Avalanche, leading 3-1 in a best-of-three series, has a shot at winning the Stanley Cup. “I thought it was nothing, to be honest. I thought it happens every other shift in the whole game.

“It’s part of the game. This is a smooth game. You change on the fly, anything happens. You look at this clip, you support this clip – and I’ve already done this several times to see exactly what they were talking about – and there are two guys in Tampa who are jumping with their D, breaking off the ice from the zone far. I counted 7-6 times. That’s what it is. This is how the game is played. I don’t see a break or a break in this. I really see it as nothing.”

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Bednar is right. This is not basketball. The player does not have to wait for the whistle, much less for the player to step off the ice, before entering the ice. Indulgence granted. As the NHL Operations Department said in a statement, “This decision can be made by all four officials on the ice.”

And this is one that is not subject to review, although it has been reviewed. But perhaps not at the level of some fans who analyzed the footage as if it were a Zapruder film.

“After the game, Hockey Operations met with four officials in accordance with their normal protocol,” the league said. “When discussing the winning goal, each of the four referees reported that they did not see too many men on the ice in the game.”

Even Cooper, whose Lightning benefited from too many goals in last year’s Conference Finals against the New York Islanders, admitted that “it’s not an exact science,” something the Tampa Bay defenseman echoed.

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“In the course of a hockey game, I would say that 99% of the time, the guy who goes out on the ice jumps first,” Cooper said. “That’s why they have such a small safe area, because there are only two doors and guys jump over them, so it happens all the time. The reason the rule exists is that if you get a significant advantage, there is a penalty. It happens all the time…but the point of the rule is not to take advantage.”

“It probably happens more often than we think,” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “Obviously it’s amplified by the outcome and outcome, and you ask the players, we’re looking every inch to get an edge and try to jump into the game when you know your changes are coming.”

The question is whether the Avalanche took advantage of this so-called “safe zone” and, more importantly, would have scored Kadri if he had not rushed by a full five seconds.

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“It seemed strange to me that they were so widely revealed in the play,” Cooper said.

At the same time, Cooper hinted that the best team won. Whether it was five, six or seven skaters on the ice, the Avalanche created many more overtime chances than the Lightning.

In a sense, they also created their own luck.

“They got the better of us in overtime? There is no doubt that they did it,” said Cooper. “But this is a game with breaks. And often you do them, and sometimes you get them. And in this series, Colorado leads 3-1 because they made a lot of breaks. You look at their net last night and not one of them touched a stick or hit the net… (Nathan) McKinnon didn’t know where she was, jumped off his skate and rolled in. The second one goes six feet wide and hits (Andrew) Colliano in the knee. But they took their break. Like, good with them.

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“And that’s what happens when you do them. And the winner of the game is the annoying non-call. That’s how you get breaks… the teams I had when we won championships, you get them. But what comes, goes.”

That the referees decided not to award a penalty should not have come as a surprise. By the end of the game in a draw, they swallowed their whistles rather than affecting the result. On the other hand, by not calling, they essentially played their part in who won.

“I thought they called it normal,” Bednar said. “I’m sure every coach can go through this and say, ‘This is a penalty, this is a penalty.’ But that’s the way it is. They let us play. (Logan O’Connor) rushes in on (Victor) Hedman alone in overtime and gets hit with a club. It’s what it is, man. You must fight through it.

“This is playoff hockey. Stanley Cup Final. You as players are expected to fight through a certain number of things because this is the most competitive time of the year. Referees are not going to deal with the little things that confuse teams and give them an advantage over the other team. They are going to let the players settle the game. That’s how it should be.”

mtraikos@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Michael_Trykos

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