TAMPA — The moment the game ended Thursday night, Lightning goaltender Mike Smith sprinted from his net toward the officials.
Teammates got in the way, fans booed and threw debris on the ice.
The Lightning lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Avalanche at the St. Pete Times Forum, and to say players believe they were robbed was an understatement.
"All I know is there's four (officials) on the ice," Smith said. "You'd think one of them could make the right call."
The issue: whether Smith deliberately threw his stick while saving Milan Hejduk's shootout try. The officials, after lengthy discussion, said he did and awarded Hejduk a goal. By rule, the only reviewable aspect of the play is if the puck was in the net.
The result: Colorado won the shootout 1-0 as Jussi Jokinen, Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis were stopped by Andrew Raycroft, and Tampa Bay fell to 1-6 in shootouts, 2-9 in overtime games and 4-14 in one-goal games.
"I guess if you're winning, if you're up in the standings, those calls seem to go your way," said Smith, who along with teammate Ryan Malone got a misconduct penalty for the postgame frenzy. "But right now, it seems like everyone is against us."
Not that the Lightning (7-15-9) was blameless.
The team, which outshot Colorado 38-35, has one goal in its past seven periods. Jeff Halpern's second-period tally, in his first game back since May reconstructive surgery on his right knee, made it 1-1.
Its shooters also have just four shootout goals in 24 attempts.
Smith did his part with a sprawling blocker save on Hejduk. But referees Tim Peel and Brian Pochmara and two linesmen decided otherwise, citing Rule 26-4, which states if a thrown stick disrupts a penalty shot, a goal is awarded.
"I know it's a quick game and things happen fast. But there's four (officials) on the ice — four," Smith said. "They have the angles covered. I made the save, and then I had to drop the stick because my stick was going to come up in the air. You can't make that call at that point in the game. You can't."
But they did.
"My phone is blowing up by NHL people that are friends of mine who said that's a terrible call," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "I know the referees. They're good guys, but it's a tough one to swallow. We need wins, so when something like that happens, you'd better be 100 percent sure."
NHL director of hockey operations Mike Murphy, watching in Toronto, did not allow officials to speak to reporters.
"I don't think any good can come of it," he said. "There's a hot environment down there right now, and I think it's best they not speak because I don't want them getting trapped."
Tocchet said the officials did not give him enough information.
"I was just asking, 'Who made the call? Who steps up to the plate here?' " he said. "I couldn't get anybody to tell me. That's the frustrating part."
Frustrating for St. Louis, Tampa Bay's last hope to extend the shootout, was waiting at center ice while debris flew from the stands.
No excuse he said after failing.
"I've got to … pick Smitty up," St. Louis said.
"And I wasn't able to do that, and I feel terrible."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8622.
|Avalanche wins shootout 1-0|
|Avalanche wins shootout 1-0|
First Period—1, Colorado, Stastny 9 (Smyth, Hejduk), 3:46. Penalties—Krajicek, TB (hooking), 10:49; Hannan, Col (interference), 13:20.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Halpern 1 (Malik, Meszaros), 7:35. Penalties—Krajicek, TB (high-sticking), 10:01; Eminger, TB (holding), 17:07; Malone, TB (delay of game), 18:57; Smyth, Col (interference), 19:39; Malik, TB (holding), 19:56.
Third Period—None. Penalties—None.
Shootout—Colorado 1 (Wolski NG, Hejduk G), Tampa Bay 0 (Jokinen NG, Lecavalier NG, St. Louis NG). Shots on Goal—Colorado 7-13-13-2—35. Tampa Bay 13-13-9-3—38. Power-play opportunities—Colorado 0 of 5; Tampa Bay 0 of 1. Goalies—Colorado, Raycroft 5-1-0 (38 shots-37 saves). Tampa Bay, M.Smith 5-11-8 (35-34). A—16,333 (19,758).