Erik Karlsson gave the Sharks a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference final, but not without another Stanley Cup playoff officiating controversy.
Karlsson scored his second goal of the night 5:23 into overtime, finishing off Gustav Nyquist's cross-crease pass to seal San Jose's 5-4 win Wednesday night. But Nyquist first received the puck from an apparent Timo Meier hand pass, as the Sharks winger seemed to bat the puck out of mid-air towards his teammate.
The Blues stayed on the Enterprise Center ice after Karlsson's goal, as officials Dan O'Rourke, Marc Joannette, Matt MacPherson and Jonny Murray conferred to discuss the goal. The officials then skated towards the tunnel, and O'Rourke indicated to the Blues that they needed to get off the ice because the goal stood.
According to the NHL rulebook, a player is not allowed to hit a puck in mid-air with their hand if, "in the opinion of the on-ice officials, he has directed the puck to a teammate." Had the play been called a hand pass, the officials would've blown it dead after Nyquist received the puck and Karlsson's goal would not have counted.
But the play was not reviewable, since no hand pass was called on the play. Under Rule 38.4, a hand pass is not one of the nine situations subject to a review by the video goal judge. NHL series director Kay Whitmore clarified the situation to The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford.
Pool reporter: Did any of the officials see it?
Whitmore: "It's a non-reviewable play. You can read between the lines. You can figure out what you want. You watched the video. But it's just non-reviewable. I know that sounds like a cop-out answer, but that's the truth."— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 16, 2019
Pool reporter: Any leeway for Toronto to step in?
Whitmore: "If there was, then you answered your (question). The way the rules are written, any chance there is to review, everything is reviewed that's reviewable. But as the rules currently stand, the play is non-reviewable."— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 16, 2019
This is not the first controversial call the Sharks have been at the center of this postseason. In Game 7 of their first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights, Vegas forward Cody Eakin was called for a five-minute major cross-checking penalty after Sharks captain Joe Pavelski laid motionless with his head bleeding. Replays indicated that a subsequent collision with Golden Knights forward Paul Stastny caused an off-balance Pavelski to fall and his head on the ice.
Over the next five minutes, the Sharks scored four goals to take the lead and ultimately eliminated the Golden Knights with a 5-4 overtime win. After the series ended, the NHL apologized to the Golden Knights, and Pavelski told reporters earlier this month he didn't think it was worthy of a major penalty.
In Game 7 of the Sharks' second-round series with the Colorado Avalanche, San Jose challenged Colorado's game-tying goal. Replays indicated that Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog had not cleared the offensive zone as he tried to head to his own bench for a line change. The NHL's situation room determined that Landeskog "did not legally tag up at the blue line prior to the puck entering the offensive zone" after San Jose challenged the play for offside, and the Sharks took a two-goal lead minutes later on Joonas Donskoi's goal. Donskoi's tally stood as the game-winner, and the Sharks advanced to play the Blues in the Western Conference final.
Karlsson's goal was his second of the contest, and Wednesday marked his first multi-goal game with the Sharks. The overtime winner was the 28-year-old's first in 65 career Stanley Cup playoff appearances.