Bizarre goal is the talk of NHL - The Buffalo News
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Bizarre goal is the talk of NHL

Eat your heart out, Mark Sanchez.

The New York Jets quarterback became infamous for his “butt fumble” last season, when he collided with the backside of teammate Brandon Moore and fumbled the ball while falling to the turf and thus making blooper reels forever.

The ball was recovered by New England and returned for a touchdown, one of three Patriots scores in a 52-second span that essentially ended Sanchez’s career in New York. It’s a play Jets fans would like to forget.

Then there’s Monday night. Buffalo Sabres fans will forever recall what Twitter instantly branded as the “ButtGoal” that rocked First Niagara Center.

The overtime winner credited to Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk in a 2-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes went viral Tuesday, drawing international attention to the bizarre finish of what figured to be just the final night before a three-day holiday break to the 82-game NHL schedule.

The Sabres won the game when Pysyk’s chip shot flew in the air and landed on the back of Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, right by his butt. With no idea where the puck was, Smith slid butt-first into the net, presumably to get in position to stop a shot coming from in front of him.

One problem: That put the puck completely over the goal line.

The video of the goal went completely viral Tuesday morning. There were the usual suspects you would expect like ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 and FoxSports1 as well as newspapers, Web sites and television all over hockey-mad Canada. There were prominent hockey blogs like NBC’s “Pro Hockey Talk”, Yahoo’s “Puck Daddy” and CBS Sports’ “Eye on Hockey.” Deadspin chimed in too.

But this play went much farther than your average hockey goal.

The video was on NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America”. It earned a spot in the top 10 stories all morning on with the headline “Puck-in-pants goal wins NHL game” and a link to the Turner-affiliated Bleacher Report.

The Yahoo post even made it on the Yahoo Eurosport blog for the UK and Ireland.

Smith’s counterpart, Buffalo veteran Ryan Miller, said he had never seen a goal scored that way. And certainly not an overtime winner.

“A little unlucky for Smith there,” Miller said. “I think he’ll be shaking his head for a while but these are the kind of things that weren’t happening for us. A little bit of a Christmas present for us and we’ll take it.”

It was Pysyk’s first goal of the second and just the second of the 21-year-old’s NHL career.

“I got the puck, just tried to grab it, put it on net for a rebound,” Pysyk said. “I thought I could chip it past him, it went up in the air under his pants and he spun right in the net. First goal of the year, I’ll take it.”

The Sabres immediately celebrated as Smith ended up in the net with the puck on him. Officials huddled and needed the NHL war room in Toronto to confirm their goal call via replay.

“I saw it come down. I figure it landed and I didn’t know where it went from there,” Pysyk said. “But he was in the net so I figured it was in.

“I knew it was in right away,” said Tyler Ennis, the closest Buffalo player to the puck and the first one to go behind the net to point it out to referee Greg Kimmerly. “I had a good look at it. He backed in so deep we all knew on the ice it was a goal. We were just hoping the refs knew and Toronto knew. It was a great feeling.”

Late Monday night, the league issued an official ruling on its Situation Room blog at that read in part: “video review supported the referee’s call on the ice that Mark Pysyk’s shot deflected into the air and landed in goaltender Mike Smith’s equipment and, while attempting to make the save, Smith’s momentum propelled him and the puck completely across the goal line. Good goal. Buffalo.”

The MSG Network telecast featured a classic give-and-take on the call between legendary Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret in the press box and analyst Rob Ray, the longtime former Buffalo pugilist in his normal ice-level perch.

As the replays were rolling, Ray immediately found the puck drop on Smith’s white jersey tucked inside his red pants and even used a blue telestrator circle to show it. The same frozen clip of the blue circle was played on the arena Jumbotron as the crowd of 18,942 howled with part cheers and part open laughter.

“It falls right in the back of his pants,” an excited Ray yelled. That drew an an “Oh, my Lord” from Jeanneret, who said he had never seen anything like this in his 43 years of calling NHL games.

The conversation continued as the on-ice officials huddled and the ones in Toronto reviewed the play.

Ray: “You can see the puck laying on the top of his pants, on his jersey, in the net. This is gonna be a good goal. You see it right there. You can see the puck. Right there. See it?”

Jeanneret: “Yeah, I see it. But I’ve never seen anything like this before. Ever.”

Ray: “It’s Christmas. It’s Christmas.”

Jeanneret: “Well, it’s Christmas for one team. It’s Bah, Humbug! for the other one.”

A few seconds later, the goal was officially announced as good. The arena’s foghorn bellowed for a second time, the crowd roared again, and everyone went home to nestle in their beds with a bizarre holiday memory they won’t soon forget.


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