Sunday, July 15, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

A disallowed Drouin goal saps early Lightning momentum (w/video)

TAMPA — Amalie Arena was rocking a little more than five minutes into Tuesday's Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final when Jonathan Drouin slammed the puck into a yawning net and the Lightning had a momentum-swinging 1-0 lead against the Penguins.

And then it didn't.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan challenged the goal, and a replay review showed Drouin was offside as Victor Hedman carried the puck across the blue line.

No goal. The momentum was gone. The building was quiet.

"We dodged a bullet there," Sullivan said.

It was a pivotal moment in the Lightning's 5-2 loss. There was still more than 44 minutes to play in the game and the Lightning came to life during the final 20, but momentum is so important in playoff hockey. So are leads.

Now the Lightning has to win Game 7 on Thursday in Pittsburgh to advance to its second consecutive Stanley Cup final.

What might have happened had Drouin's goal stood?

"I thought it was an important part of the game," Sullivan said. "If they get the first goal it lights up the building."

How deflating was it to see a goal come off the scoreboard?

"It didn't seem like it would be (deflating)," Brian Boyle said, "but it might have been."

Sullivan, taking advantage of the new rule that allows coaches to challenge offsides and goalie interference, challenged that Drouin had entered the zone ahead of the puck. Replay officials in Toronto, with the help of cameras on both ends of the blue line, saw that, by letter of the rule, Drouin did.

Skating up the far boards with Hedman to his left, Drouin tried to halt his progress by sticking his right skate in the ice. In doing so, he leaned forward, causing his back (left) skate to come off the ice. With his right skate already across the blue line, it was ruled Drouin was not straddling the blue line and thus already inside the offensive zone.

"It's part of the game," he said. "I can't worry too much about it."

Because the Lightning lost, coach Jon Cooper said it's easy to say having that goal denied was a game-changer.

"It was really early in the game. I felt we had lots of energy," Cooper said. "It would have been nice if that counted, but I don't think something that early should have an impact on the game, so no."

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