TORONTO — The Buffalo Sabres' celebration was underway in KeyBank Center Friday night when referee Tim Peel announced that Conor Sheary's game-winning overtime goal was under review.
The NHL's situation room in Toronto initiated the challenge to determine if Rasmus Dahlin was offside earlier in the Sabres' final possession, which ended with Sheary's wrist shot sealing a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Penguins players climbed over the boards to prepare for the next shift following Peel's announcement, only to discover less than one minute later the call on the ice stood because Dahlin was ruled onside. A similar play negated Jack Eichel's goal at Florida on Feb. 19, and coach Phil Housley admitted the rule's interpretation can be unpredictable.
"It always changes game to game," Housley said Saturday in Scotiabank Arena when asked of the difference between the two challenges. "I just thought Rasmus had possession coming into the zone. He was making a hockey move and it was right on to his tape, so that to me is possession at that point in the overtime."
That was the league's interpretation upon further review. The sequence in question began when Dahlin collected the puck in the neutral zone and maintained possession until he met Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson at the opposing blue line.
The league's initial concern stemmed from the puck lagging behind Dahlin's body while he tried to stick handle to his left around Pettersson. While still images show Dahlin in the offensive zone with the puck behind the blue line, the official ruling determined the 18-year-old defenseman never lost possession of the puck, therefore making him onside.
Dahlin OT zone entry prior to Sheary Goal pic.twitter.com/aOd7NhtN0z
— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) March 2, 2019
Eichel's third-period goal in Florida was nullified because he lost possession while attempting to enter the offensive zone, and he skated backward to try to regain the puck on the blade of his stick. Initially ruled onside, Eichel would one-time a pass from Zach Bogosian for a goal, only to have the play ruled offside after a challenge.
However, Housley said he and his coaching staff had no such concerns Friday night when Sheary scored with 49 seconds left in overtime. According to the NHL's Rule 83.1, "a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered 'offside,' provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line."
"We looked at it in the coach’s room, and I felt they made the right call," Housley said.
Ullmark starts again
Housley chose to use the same starting goalie in back-to-back days for the second time in one week, opting to use Linus Ullmark in net Saturday night in Toronto after the 25-year-old stopped 41 of 44 shots against the Penguins.
It was the first time this season Ullmark started games in back-to-back days. Carter Hutton, who left practice early Thursday because of a lower-body injury, was available to start if needed, but Housley chose to use Ullmark because of his performance against the Penguins.
Defenseman Marco Scandella returned to the Sabres' lineup Saturday after a lower-body injury prevented the 28-year-old from playing against the Penguins. Defensemen Matt Hunwick and Casey Nelson were healthy scratches, while forward Vladimir Sobotka remains day to day with an upper-body injury.