TAMPA — When it comes to what is goaltender interference, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is stumped.
"Pretty confusing," Stamkos said. "Just too many gray areas."
You saw that in the Lightning's 5-4 overtime win over the Stars on Thursday night. Dallas' Mattias Janmark scored the tying goal with 3.6 seconds left shortly after Tyler Seguin jabbed goalie Louis Domingue with his stick.
"(Seguin) shoved me in the net," Domingue said. "That's what happened. I don't see why I would end up with my pads in the net. It's not something I do ever."
Usually coaches can challenge a goal due to goaltender interference. On reviews that late in the game, it automatically goes to the league office. And this time, the call on ice of good goal was upheld, which led to entirely opposite reactions from both benches.
Said Lightning coach Jon Cooper: "You look at that, and what's a better call? I thought the better call was our goalie had no chance to make the save. So I guess I was in the minority on that one."
Said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock: "I would have been really disappointed if the goal got called back because of goalie interference. When Seguin went in there his stick was hooked. He was trying to score and his stick was hooked, so that would have been really disappointing."
Two NHL head coaches. Two sharp hockey minds. Two entirely different opinions on the same play. Get why everyone is puzzled?
What has been frustrating to many, including on the Lightning, is the inconsistent interpretation and application of the rule. There has been a lot of subjectivity.
The rule 69.1 states: "Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.
"The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed."
The league has been looking for clarity. The issue was brought up at a board of governors meeting at the NHL All-Star Game in Tampa in late January. Commissioner Gary Bettman had a separate meeting with coaches (including Cooper), referees and general managers.
A memo circulated around the league stating that officials should watch the play at normal speed and, unless an obvious foul pops up, the original call on the ice should stand. In a sense, don't overthink it.
Cooper was livid on the bench after Janmark's goal was upheld. It wasn't the first goaltender interference play that went against Tampa Bay this season.
But Cooper made it clear this isn't about a conspiracy, more so the confusion.
"I do know this," Cooper said. "Everyone is trying to do the right thing and make the right call. And I know that's true. If there's a league that's got integrity, it's the National Hockey League.
"Regardless of the call that's made, somebody is going to be ticked off, somebody is going to be happy. Unfortunately we were on the wrong side of it (Thursday night). That's it."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.