TORONTO — Phoenix Coyotes netminder Mike Smith deserved more Thursday night.
Much more, actually.
As did his Phoenix teammates, who clawed back from a goal down at the Air Canada Centre to setup a shootout.
Smith, who was near-perfect on the night, appeared to stone Toronto’s first shooter, James van Riemsdyk, on the home side’s first attempt.
When the Buds’ 24-year-old winger slid his shot between Smith’s legs, the ‘Yotes netminder shut the door, hiding the puck beneath his pads as he sat back in the goal.
Both referees looked at each other. Neither had a clue what to call. In fact, there was no obvious signal either way, which led most to believe the call on the ice was no goal.
After all, how could there be? The puck essentially vanished.
And although a majority of Smith’s padding did end up behind the red line, his left pad was clearly still in the crease.
Replays? They were inconclusive, meaning the original call on the ice stood up.
Unfortunately, the referees gave no clear indication as to whether a goal had been scored.
“(The referee) came and whispered it in my ear like ‘it’s a goal,’ and he didn’t really give a signal that it was,” Smith told the Associated Press. “He said he saw it go in.”
Only he didn’t. Nobody did. No one has. Or, ever will.
The officials still counted van Riemsdyk’s attempt.
“It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it goes,” Smith said.
It will also be unfortunate if the Coyotes, who are just three points back of a playoff spot, come back to rue dropped points at the end of this season.
That’s not to say the ‘Yotes would have gone on to win Thursday night’s shootout had the referees got it right, but they certainly shouldn’t have lost in the manner they did.