TAMPA — The Lightning lost a coach’s challenge, then lost a game.
That might be an oversimplification. They had opportunities to score and rally against the Jets on Saturday at Amalie Arena. But they went from tied to trailing by two in 21 seconds due to the failed challenge and ended up losing 4-3.
“Obviously that changes the whole game,” Steven Stamkos said. “It’s a double whammy. It’s a goal (for the Jets), and then we have to kill (the power play from the failed challenge), and we don’t.”
With the score tied at 1, coach Jon Cooper challenged the Jets’ second goal, 7:18 into the second period, claiming a missed stoppage due to a high stick 18 seconds before Jack Roslovic scored. The NHL ruled that Nikolaj Ehlers’ stick was not above the normal height of his shoulders when he contacted the puck.
New this season, a failed challenge results in a delay-of-game penalty. Ehlers scored 21 seconds into the ensuing power play, giving Winnipeg a 3-1 lead.
“We wouldn’t challenge that unless we were 100 percent (sure) that’s a high stick,” Cooper said. “I guess you have to be 110 percent.”
That 21 seconds changed the game, but it wasn’t nearly a death blow for the Lightning. More than half the game remained, and the Lightning (9-6-2) had their chances. They came on stronger in the final minutes, giving themselves a chance to win.
Twice in the last three minutes, the Lightning cut their deficit to one goal, both times after Cooper had pulled goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. First, Stamkos scored a one-timer from the top of the circle with 2:16 left for his 400th career goal, making it 3-2. The Jets responded with an empty-netter. Then Anthony Cirelli scored on a rebound with 22 seconds left.
The Lightning could have won even with the failed challenge and ensuing power-play goal. But that penalty changed the complexion of this game.
“I don’t really understand it,” Stamkos said of the failed challenge being a penalty. “I thought the premise is to try to get the right call. If we think that’s the right call, it’s tough to get penalized for it.”
He described disorganization and a little panic on the bench as coaches try to decide whether to challenge a goal with about 20 to 30 seconds before the puck drops again.
The video feed they watch doesn’t always have a clear view of things, if they have video at all. Coaches on the bench are scrambling, trying to communicate with video coaches behind the scenes.
Sometimes it works. The Lighting challenged a would-be goal by the Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson in Game 4 of the playoffs last season due to an offside play and won. Granted, they went on to lose the game.
Sometimes a challenge doesn’t work. The Lightning lost one for what they thought was a high stick on an Islanders goal Nov. 1. That was a different situation in terms of game flow. The challenge was late in the game and the difference between a two-goal deficit for the Lightning and a three-goal one it what was a 5-2 loss.
“When you bring in video review, there’s going to be debate about calls all the time,” Cooper said. “Now they’ve changed the rules because they want to speed it up and have less challenges.”
The question is if being wrong deserves a penalty. In the NFL, a failed challenge results in the loss of a timeout. In the NHL, timeouts don’t carry as much weight. A power play is a heavier consequence, as Winnipeg demonstrated. All other penalties are assessed as a result of breaking the rules. Getting a challenge wrong isn’t against the rules.
“I don’t think it slows the game down that much that you have to penalize a team,” Stamkos said. “That’s my opinion.”
First Period—1, Winnipeg, Perreault 5 (Poolman, Morrissey), 1:59. 2, Tampa Bay, Hedman 4 (Stamkos), 19:11. Penalties—None.
Second Period—3, Winnipeg, Roslovic 4 (Wheeler, Copp), 7:18. 4, Winnipeg, Ehlers 9 (Connor, Morrissey), 7:39 (pp). Penalties—Gourde, TB, (interference), 3:25 Tampa Bay bench, served by Verhaeghe (delay of game), 7:18 Kulikov, WPG, (boarding), 14:27.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 7 (Hedman, Cirelli), 17:44. 6, Winnipeg, Connor 7 (Sbisa, Wheeler), 18:32. 7, Tampa Bay, Cirelli 2 (Kucherov, Hedman), 19:38. Penalties—Beaulieu, WPG, (holding), 1:48 Shattenkirk, TB, (hooking), 3:34 Kucherov, TB, (high sticking), 8:07.
Shots on Goal—Winnipeg 7-11-9_27. Tampa Bay 9-11-14_34. Power-play opportunities—Winnipeg 1 of 4. Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Winnipeg, Hellebuyck 9-6-1 (34 shots-31 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 7-5-0 (26-23).
A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:34.
Referees—Trevor Hanson, Brian Pochmara. Linesmen—Darren Gibbs, Brad Kovachik.