TAMPA, Fla. — It wasn’t the typical post-game press conference Jon Cooper. The Lightning’s head coach took just one question.
After praising the NHL and his team’s grit in battling to a third-straight Stanley Cup Final, Cooper was short and emotional.
“This one’s going to sting much more than others, just because I think it was taken—it was poten(tially)—I don’t know. It’s hard for me—it’s going to be hard for me to speak,” he said.
Cooper implied that the Colorado Avalanche’s game-winning overtime goal should not have counted.
The goal came roughly 12 minutes through the overtime period. Avalanche center Nazem Kadri, playing in his first game since an injury during the Western Conference Final, snuck the puck past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. The win gives the Avalanche a commanding 3-1 game lead in the Stanley Cup Final and can win their first Stanley Cup since 2001 with a win at home on Friday night.
Cooper stopped short of explaining why he thought the goal wasn’t legal. However, he promised more details during a Thursday news conference.
Lightning Assistant Coach Derek Lalonde, however, was more direct in an interview with Bally Sports Sun’s Dave Randorf. He questioned an “interesting change” that happened before the Kadri goal and may have constituted a “Too Many Men on the Ice” penalty.
“It’s probably not my spot, but it’s going to get ugly,” Lalonde said, in part. “It’s a pretty bad look. Unfortunately, we’re at the bad end of it.”
A video shared by Bally Sports Sun shows Kadri leave the bench to get in position for the game-winning play before his replacement, Nathan MacKinnon, enters the bench area.
According to the “Too Many Men” rule, “at the discretion of the on-ice officials, should a substituting player come onto the ice before his teammate is within the five foot (5’) limit of the players’ bench (and therefore clearly causing his team to have too many players on the ice), then a bench minor penalty may be assessed.”
The video seems to show that MacKinnon was beyond five feet when Kadri came onto the ice.
“You’re going to see what I mean, when you see the winning goal,” Cooper said before abruptly ending his post-game news conference after the loss. “And my heart breaks for the players, because we probably still should be playing.”
Kadri, meanwhile, brushed off Cooper’s comments.
“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,” said Kadri, according to ESPN. “The puck hit the back of the net, end of story, so not sure why he would say that.”
According to a statement released by NHL Hockey Operations, as reported by NHL.com, the call was not subject to video review by either on-ice officials or Hockey Ops.
“A too many men on the ice penalty is a judgment call that can be made by any of the four on-ice officials,” the statement said. “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.”