Lightning question Avalanche OT goal after apparently missed penalty

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TAMPA — When the Colorado Avalanche players flocked to the ice Wednesday night to celebrate their overtime win in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, frustration was already building on the Tampa Bay Lightning bench.

The Lightning appeared to be battling with Nazem Kadris game winner at 7:58 into overtime, with coach Jon Cooper making a tense, emotional statement later in the evening. And no, it didn’t seem like the concern was for Kadri’s shot, which slammed Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy high over his right shoulder before disappearing briefly as the puck landed in the net.

After that, the focus was instead on whether Colorado made an illegal line switch that led straight to Kadri’s goal, giving the Avalanche a 3-2 win on the road and securing them control of the best-of-seven series.

The Avalanche now lead 3-1 in the series with Game 5 scheduled for Friday night in Colorado.

Nazem Kadri brings Avalanche to the cusp of the title in Game 4 with OT Winner

“This one’s going to sting a lot more than others just because he assumed … it was possibly … I don’t know … it’s hard for me,” Cooper said in his brief post-game press conference Wednesday night. “I’m going to have a hard time speaking… You’ll see what I mean when you see the winning goal. My heart breaks for the players because we probably should still be playing.”

While Cooper didn’t specifically mention the too many men on ice violation during his press conference, in which he only answered one question before apologizing, a closer look at the game reveals why Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champion of the Stanley Cup , was upset.

A closer look at the broadcast showed that the Avalanche had six skaters on the ice before Kadri scored. As Kadri made his move to the net to beat Vasilevskiy, Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon still had both feet on the ice as he attempted to jump off and onto the bench to complete the switch. NHL rules state that skaters must be within five feet of their bench and out of the following game before a shift change occurs.

On Thursday, Cooper made it clear he believed officers misunderstood the call on the ice but wanted to go ahead and look at the rest of the series.

“I got some excitement for Game 5 and now I’m thinking about how I’m going to win that,” Cooper said. “Not [anything] we can do to reverse. you missed it Too bad, but now there is water under the bridge. Let’s get ready. It should be a damn good Game 5.”

Too many man penalties, even if a goal is scored, cannot be reviewed.

“An too many men on ice penalty is a decision that can be made by any of the four officials on the ice,” NHL Hockey Operations said in a late night statement. “After the game, Hockey Operations met with the four officials as is their normal protocol. When discussing the winning goal, each of the four officials advised that they didn’t see too many men on the ice in the game.”

The controversy only continued after the game, when the official game report sheet handed over to the media listed six skaters on the ice for Kadri’s goal. The NHL later told reporters it was a mistake, and Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson was listed in error.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Wednesday night he thinks the goal is good no matter what narrative Tampa Bay was trying to push. “I didn’t hear any confusion,” he said.

Kadri, who played the first game of the series after undergoing thumb surgery earlier in the month, said he wasn’t sure either why Cooper would question the legitimacy of his target.

“I’m not entirely sure what he really was, what he was thinking about, why it shouldn’t have counted. That confuses me a bit,” said Kadri on Wednesday. “The puck hit the back of the net, end of story so I’m not sure why he would say that.”

Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh didn’t have much to say Thursday, noting that as a player you “look every inch to get an advantage and try to get in the game.”