DALLAS – Tim Murray and Terry Pegula stood in the press box and said the puck went in. Ryan O’Reilly, Zemgus Girgensons and Rasmus Ristolainen crowded around a TV outside the dressing room and watched the puck hop across the goal line. Buffalo’s coaches looked at numerous angles from their office and saw multiple pucks go in.
The Sabres know what the replays showed. What they knew and what they could prove were two different things.
The only conclusive evidence was they lost a game they felt they won and went into the All-Star break feeling angry and cheated.
“Frustrating more than anything that the game’s not decided by the players,” center Jack Eichel said after Thursday’s crazy 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.
Officials reviewed three goals in American Airlines Center, and in all three cases decided against the Sabres. The final one came after the players left the ice and the fans left the building.
With only a few Stars players still around, the referees went to the phone following the final buzzer. They looked at an O’Reilly shot with 11 seconds left that hit the pants of goaltender Kari Lehtonen and straddled the goal line before bouncing away.
How did this puck not get in? pic.twitter.com/eyWONFzDt5
— Everything Buffalo (@EverythingBuf) January 27, 2017
“Video review confirmed that the puck did completely cross the Dallas goal line,” the NHL said.
“The puck goes through Zach Bogosian and, um, into the net,” said Sabres coach Dan Bylsma, who came back to the bench during the review. “The view is not super clear in terms of definitively saying where the puck ends up. It sits on the side of his pants, and at least on the view it’s on the right side of the crossbar. The answer is they don’t definitively know that it crossed the whole goal line, and I think we all can see it past the crossbar.”
On a Sam Reinhart backhand with 8:54 to play, the puck definitely crossed the goal line to apparently tie the game. Lehtonen rolled to the ice with the puck, and Reinhart and Eichel both pointed to the puck over the line. Lehtonen got up and kicked it back to the right side of the line after seeing it in.
"There's inconclusive evidence that the puck crossed the goal line" pic.twitter.com/PzvPAxf3cd
— Jared (@JxredNHL) January 27, 2017
“Video review was inconclusive in determining if Sam Reinhart's shot completely crossed the Dallas goal line,” the NHL said. “Therefore the referee's call on the ice stands – no goal Buffalo.”
“The puck was in the net,” Eichel said. “I mean, usually the puck goes in the net it’s a goal. It’s kind of weird how that didn’t happen.
“The ref sees it in the net. I saw it go in the net as well. Then on the last one, that one might even be more conclusive. The puck clearly crosses the red. That’s two goals along with a lot of other things that happened during the game. It’s tough to put the outcome of something into the referees’ hands, but once again I think we get the short end of the stick there.
“Pucks go in the net and they don’t really have an explanation on it. It’s pretty frustrating.”
There’s no question Reinhart’s shot went in. The debate can be when it went in and whether the whistle had gone.
“I don’t know if it was tough to see on the video or what, but it was 100 percent over the line, so it’s a tough one,” Reinhart said. “If the reason is they couldn’t determine or couldn’t see it, you know that’s probably pretty fair because the goalie was on top, but it’s a little frustrating when you’re behind the net and you can see it in.”
The first of the three reviews came in the opening minute of the second period as Dallas tied the game, 2-2. Bylsma issued a coach’s challenge for offsides. While Buffalo coaches said they had a clear video of Jamie Benn across the blue line before the puck, replays in the arena had a player’s head blocking the view of Benn’s foot.
“Review was not conclusive in determining whether Dallas was offside prior to the goal,” the NHL said. “According to Rule 78.7, ‘If a review is not conclusive and/or there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether the call on the ice was correct, the On-Ice Official(s) will be instructed to confirm their original call.’”
Said Bylsma: “The answer was we can’t definitively know again. That’s three of those.”
The reviews overshadowed an incomplete game by the Sabres. They opened a 2-0 lead, then allowed four straight goals. After two periods, Buffalo was down, 4-3, and getting outshot, 34-11. The shot attempts were 62-27 in Dallas’ favor.
Buffalo rolled the Stars during the third period with a 16-2 shot advantage. Officially, they didn’t score on any of them.
“You know you got goals by the goalie and across the goal line, but you come up empty,” Bylsma said. “It looked like we were going to have opportunities to tie that game up, and by hook or crook it doesn’t get in the back of the net.”
The loss ended the Sabres’ three-game winning streak. They have to think about it all weekend because of the All-Star break. The next game is Tuesday in Montreal.
“We didn’t play for 60 and they got a couple goals,” Eichel said. “It’s just unfortunate that you have a chance to go into the break with four straight wins and we think we played a good game and get no points out of it.”
Said O’Reilly: “That’s a frustrating one for us. What can you do? It’s out of our control.”