Let me say this first: NHL officials don’t have the benefit of instant replay on penalties, and hockey is a fast game. But Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena, the officiating crew blew a crucial third period call that cost the Caps an opportunity to tie the game.
With one minute and fifty-two seconds remaining, Capitals forward TJ Oshie was whistled for a high stick on Nick Bonino.
Except it wasn’t a high stick.
As Oshie attempted a stick check, his stick clipped Bonino up high. From behind the play, and this is what the official saw, Oshie appears to high-stick Bonino in the face.
But it’s the side replay that tells the story. Oshie’s stick struck Bonino’s left shoulder.
For the play to be high-sticking, there must be contact “above the height of the opponent’s shoulders.” There was not.
Bonino sold the call, snapping his head back and checking his mouth for blood. Oshie skated to the box without argument.
“Tough time to get a penalty,” Oshie said after the game. “It’s kind of an amateur play by me there. You gotta check your feet in those big moments.”
“I didn’t think I hit him that hard,” Oshie continued, “but I’ve been on the other side. The natural reaction when you get hit is your head snaps back a little bit. It’s unfortunate.”
According to the NHL rulebook, Bonino could have been whistled for a penalty himself.
Rule 64 – Diving/Embellishment
Any player who blatantly dives, embellishes a fall or a reaction, or who feigns an injury shall be penalized with a minor penalty under this rule.
The Capitals went down a man for the rest of the game. They would pull Braden Holtby to ice five skaters, but they could not tie.
What Bonino did was less than honorable, but it was the smart play. It worked.
These types of blown calls happen hundreds of times per year. This time it happened in the biggest moment of the Capitals’ season, and it hurt them. The call doesn’t absolve the Caps of blame for putting themselves in a losing position to begin with, but it still stings.
I choose to believe that hockey is a more honest game than this, but after tonight, maybe it’s not.
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) May 4, 2017
Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.
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