By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) — Just a nice, casual 4-1 win for the Blackhawks to start the Western Conference Finals.
Whoops, sorry. Make that a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The Hawks’ apparent second goal didn’t count because, well, the NHL said so. Good luck understanding the league’s reasoning.
What matters more is that the Blackhawks overcame the adversity and a tremendous swing of momentum — something they seemingly always do — to win Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Sunday at the United Center.
“I think you’re always going to face adversity in the course of a game,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. “You’re always going to lose momentum in the course of a game. And against a good team like that, you want to get it back as you as quickly as you can — which I thought was a big point in today’s win.”
After controlling much of the first period, the Blackhawks had a 1-0 lead and appeared to add another goal when Jonathan Toews crashed the net 3:22 into the second period. His initial shot was stopped by Jonathan Quick, but bounced off of Slava Voynov’s skate and into the net after Toews collided with Quick in the crease.
The refs initially ruled “good goal” on the ice, but after a video replay, the goal was waved off. The unhappy crowd inside the United Center made it impossible to hear the explanation and an official league explanation posted on NHL.com later in the period only added to the confusion:
At 3:22 of the second period in the Los Angeles Kings/Chicago Blackhawks game, the referee consulted video review to see if Jonathan Toews’ initial shot entered the Los Angeles net. It was determined Toews’ initial shot did not enter the net. The referee’s original call on the ice was “good goal” but a discussion between the on-ice officials resulted in a “no goal” decision because Toews made incidental contact with Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick before the puck crossed the goal line. This is not a reviewable play therefore the decision on the ice stands – no goal and no penalty.
Translation: The wrong call was made on the ice, the play was reviewed because it went off a player’s skate, the incidental contact was discovered, and in order to end up with the correct call the NHL had to say the refs changed their minds on the ice because goaltender interference isn’t reviewable.
Meanwhile, the Kings tied the game a minute and 13 seconds later on a goal from Tyler Toffoli. Instead of the Blackhawks leading 2-0, it was a 1-1 game.
After the game, Quenneville commended his guys for not letting the disallowed goal defeat them, but his initial reaction on the bench — which was everything short of the infamous crotch grab in St. Louis — was enough to confirm that the Blackhawks weren’t very happy about it.
“It does kind of a suck not to see that (count). – Bickell admitted after the game.
Asked if he was buying the referee’s explanation of “incidental contact”, Quenneville simply said: “No comment.”
Toews wasn’t buying it either.
“I think when it comes down to it, it’s disappointing because of how the play was called on the ice and the fact that it was non-reviewable,” the Blackhawks captain said.
But to their credit, the dwelling on the ice didn’t last long, despite the fact that the Kings immediately tied the game. The Blackhawks seized the momentum back as Duncan Keith took a great cross-ice pass from Brandon Saad and tied the game at the 11:54 mark of the second period, giving the Hawks a lead they wouldn’t cough up.
“It’s just the way our team is,” Saad said. “We have a lot character guys. Regardless of if it’s a goal or a game we lost, it’s always something we can do, bounce back and stick to our game plan. It’s frustrating at the time, but just stick to our game plan because you can’t change it.”
Toews may of had the goal taken away from him, but he didn’t leave the United Center empty-handed Sunday. Leading a 3-on-1 break in the third period, Marian Hossa dropped the puck off to Johnny Oduya behind him and the defenseman quickly shoved a no-look pass to Toews near the right circle. Quick had no chance as Toews beat the goaltender easily to seal the 3-1 victory.
“I think that’s what it was all about, just trying to forget about (the disallowed goal) and not getting too worked up about a call that didn’t go our way,” Toews said.
No need for the NHL to try to explain how they did it. That’s just what defending Stanley Cup Champions do.
Adam Hoge is a senior writer for CBSChicago.com and a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.