By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Those who stayed up late to watch the Bruins take on the Sharks on Monday night were not disappointed. Those who hit the hay early might have missed the game of the year.
To be sure, this was not a candidate to be the best game of the year because it was perfectly played. Quite the contrary, really. The Bruins probably didn’t even deserve to win — not after letting a 3-0 lead and a 4-2 lead turn into a 5-4 deficit. Not after getting outshot 38-20, with the Sharks registering five shots on net compared to the Bruins’ single shot in the overtime period, and with the Sharks holding a ridiculous 14 to four advantage in shots in the second period.
And … well, not after the Bruins tied the game on a goal that almost certainly should not have counted.
That goal came from Chris Wagner. The B’s winger skated to the net as Brandon Carlo sent a shot on goal from the top of the right faceoff circle. The rebound kicked straight to Wagner, whose shot was stopped by a sprawling Martin Jones. The puck flipped into the air, and Wagner pursued it, getting behind Jones. Rather than waiting for the puck to come down, Wagner reached his stick high above his head to corral the puck back down to the ice. He succeeded, and he then quickly whacked the puck into the net for the game-tying goal.
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski immediately signaled to the ref for a high-stick, because Joe Pavelski has eyes.
Clearly, Wagner touched the puck with his stick above his shoulders, and just as clearly, he was the first player to touch the puck after making that contract. The play should have been whistled dead for an obvious case of playing the puck with a high stick. Alas, somehow, impossibly, neither Francis Charron
or Brad Watson — the referees on the ice — saw this clear infraction.
Had Wagner put the puck in the net after making contact with the puck above the crossbar, it would have been subject to review. But because Wagner scored after knocking the puck to the ice, the play could not be reviewed. The goal stood.
“I was right there on the play,” Logan Couture said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “It was pretty clear that it was above both the crossbar and his shoulders. It was above his eyesight. Tough one for all of them to miss. The refs are going to watch it and they’ll probably feel bad about this one.”
“It was above his shoulders,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer also said. “I’m sure we’ll get an explanation and some type of apology. It doesn’t help us in the standings, but that’s usually how it works.”
After that, Jake DeBrusk turned on the afterburners and made a breathtaking rush up the ice to set up the game-winning goal from Charlie McAvoy in overtime — McAvoy’s second game-winning goal in as many games.
Wagner, for his part, claimed … that he didn’t contact the puck with his stick above his shoulders … but also said the Bruins caught a break.
“I think I got it shoulder length,” Wagner said. “They didn’t call a high stick so I knew it was good. It was a good break for us. It’s pretty cool, we score six goals and we’re on a roll.”
Of course, on this night, both teams had ample reason to complain about the referees. The Bruins appeared to have a clear goal in the first period …
… though it was ruled that the puck didn’t cross the line. So perhaps things evened out in the end. (It remains possible that it was an optical illusion, though.)
The Sharks were also quite displeased when an Evander Kane breakaway in overtime was blown dead due to a dislodged net … a net that became dislodged a full 12 second prior to the play being whistled dead.
Seemed like the ref could have given it a whirl to try to put the net back on its pegs when the play moved up the ice.
Nevertheless, this was a game that saw Joe Thornton’s first hat trick in nearly a decade, the first career goal for Karson Kuhlman, bombs from Torey Krug and Chara for goals, a goal on a penalty shot for Couture, an overtime game-winner, and the continuation of a Bruins winning streak that has now reached six games — half of which have gone to overtime. The Bruins haven’t lost in regulation since Jan. 19, picking up 19 of a possible 22 points over their last 11 games.
Those types of runs can’t typically happen without a fortunate bounce or a stroke of luck or two along the way. And at the end of this one, both teams had reason to be upset with officiating, and their own play.
“We saw the replay and it’s just unfortunate the refs can’t [review] it,” Thornton said. “Tough break, but definitely an entertaining game tonight.”
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy seemingly gave a nod to some of the good fortune while also saying that a win is a win.
“Well,” Cassidy said, “it was odd. That’s for sure. … You know, listen, there were some funny goals out there, some lucky ones, and at the end of the day, we got one more than they did. We’re going to enjoy it. It’s too long a season to worry about the hows and whats. We’ll talk about that, of course, what we need to fix. But at the end of the day, let’s take the two points and move on to Vegas.”