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It was a first period po wer-play goal and precisely what the Rangers wanted to start Game 3 of their first-round series against the Penguins last night. It just didn’t end up that way.
Chris Kreider saw his point- blank shot turned away by Matt Murray and had the presence to stick with it and put the rebound back for a goal and a seemingly 1-0 lead. Then Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan issued a coach’s challenge and a replay showed that 13 seconds before the score, J.T. Miller had beaten Brady Skjei’s pass over the blue line by the narrowest of margins. It was ruled an offsides call and the goal was taken off the board.
At the moment it was an unfortunate coincidence. It felt like a lot more at the end of a 3-1 loss that gave the Penguins a 2-1 series advantage.
“It’s the right call,” said Kreider, who was able to see the replay from the bench. “It [stinks]. Obviously we’d like not to have that. [But] we still had [more than] a full minute double-minor power play we didn’t take advantage of.”
“I had no idea. It was close,” Miller said. “I am sure they made the right call. It’s just tough. . . . We still had a 1-0 lead later.”
Pittsburgh evened the score on Sidney Crosby’s goal in the last minute of the second period, went ahead with Matt Cullen’s goal in the third and sealed it an empty-netter.
The coach’s challenge, introduced this season for reviews on offsides and goalie interference calls, has taken a starring role in these playoffs. On Sunday, the Islanders used a coach’s challenge to secure an offsides call that negated a goal by Florida’s Aaron Ekbald that would have made the lead 3-0. Jack Capuano called it the “turning point” in a 3-2 Islanders win.
This was the second coach’s challenge in this Rangers-Pens series. The first by Sullivan failed to show an offsides violation and a goal by Derick Brassard was upheld in the Ran gers’ Game 2 win.
“The spirit of the rule is correct, everybody wants them to get the right decision,” Sullivan said yesterday before the game.
“It’s in place to get it right and when we saw the replay, it was the right call,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
Asked if he anticipated the challenge rule would play such a big postseason role, Vigneault said, “Nobody can predict the future.”
Still Derek Stepan seemed to realize its impact even before last night. At the morning skate he said, “I certainly wouldn’t want to see a goal that’s offside decide a series and not be able to have that ability to challenge it. I personally like the challenge.”
After the game, he shook his head and said, “I should have kept my mouth shut.”