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Them's the breaks

Jets just have to roll with the strange calls

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JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Carolina Hurricanes' Patrick Dwyer (39) leaps over Winnipeg Jets' Matt Halischuk (15) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg.

There really is no explanation.

At 7:29 of the third period, Jets defenceman Mark Stuart shoots the puck into the Carolina Hurricanes' net, apparently tying the NHL game 3-3.

The play follows a quick rush, with teammate Blake Wheeler going around Canes defenceman Justin Faulk like a parking pylon, being stopped by Canes goalie Cam Ward and as a the puck is making its way back to Stuart, Dustin Byfuglien is tripped at the edge of the crease by Carolina forward Andrei Loktionov's stick.

Referees Justin St. Pierre and Marc Joannette say Byfuglien interfered with Ward and so the goal would not count.

Keep all of this picture in mind, and now rewind briefly to Thursday night, when referees Kelly Sutherland and Francis Charron watch Phoenix's Mikkel Boedker railroad Florida goalie Roberto Luongo right out of the crease, making no call and leaving Coyotes' Antoine Vermette a tap-in for the eventual winning goal in a 2-1 Phoenix win.

'His foot's in the crease and Loktionov comes in with stick and leg and knocks him on his butt. And we put the puck in the net. For me that's a good goal' -- Paul Maurice

A completely different view and standard of goaltender interference.

As we said, there really is no explanation and in many other interpretations, the 3-2 Jets loss and 2-1 Coyotes victory could come out differently -- a possible four-point swing in the standings.

Goaltender interference is not currently a subject for video review in the NHL. The league's 30 general managers are sharply divided on the matter and you could probably predict where the Jets might fall on this issue at the moment.

"My view is on the video and the video for me is it's a good goal," Jets coach Paul Maurice said after the game. "He (Byfuglien) gets tripped. That traffic is going to happen with a lot of big men. At the end of the day, it's a good goal for me. They have tried to protect goalies before. We took two penalties in Colorado (on this call).

"His foot's in the crease and Loktionov comes in with stick and leg and knocks him on his butt. And we put the puck in the net. For me that's a good goal."

Wheeler, who started the controversial play, said you can't do much about judgment calls.

"I only saw a quick replay," he said. "I don't know. Those ones, it's tough. Once they call it no-goal on the ice, that's the call. You'd like to see some video come into play there if at all possible, but it's his judgment and I guess that's the way it goes."

Stuart, who would have gotten credit for the goal, did not press the issue with the officials.

"I didn't go over there," he said. "I just assumed it was Buff in the crease.

"I didn't get a good look at the replay. I thought Buff just kind of fell and he just laid there. Buff just told me he fell, just laid there and didn't really push."

Jets centre Bryan Little, who had scored earlier in the third period to make for the white-knuckle finish, said he was more concerned about what would come after the disputed play.

"It would have been nice for that one to count," Little said. "I don't exactly know what happened, but to tie the game there, we have all the momentum, there would be a decent chance we could maybe pull that one out in regulation if that one counts.

"It's a tough call. The replay is a bit hard to tell. It almost looks like he lost his balance and it was kind of accidental. Once he makes the decision to make that call, it's not like we're going to talk him out of it.

"It was frustrating at the time of the game and the importance of the goal, to say the least, but at that point, we just tried to forget about it because there wasn't much time left and we had to score another goal."

Little's approach, and the calm with which the Jets on Saturday addressed these maddeningly inconsistent standards might actually be a good sign -- that the team has begun a needed rehabilitation on these sometimes-inexplicable officiating matters that go against them.

Their reputation around the NHL, and especially with officials, is decidedly poor and the only way back from that is silence and acceptance of these "rubs of the green."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2014 B2

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