Even the refs can't stop the Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews knew he had scored.
Referee Mark Joannette knew he had scored.
So did the packed house at the United Center.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Blackhawks' 3-1 victory over Los Angeles in the opening game of the Western Conference final.
Suddenly the four on-ice officials were huddling, then they were on the phone, and as quickly as you could say 2-goal lead early in the second period, Toews' handiwork was waved off.
First came the outrage -- coach Joel Quenneville standing atop the Hawks bench waving his arms and letting the officials have it in no uncertain terms, and the standing-room only crowd at the UC drowning out Joannette the second he indicated the goal wouldn't be allowed.
Then there were the questions, and man were there a lot of them -- beginning with the big one: How can a non-reviewable play end up being reviewed ... and then overturned?
"I didn't get (an explanation) right away, but a couple seconds later it was ruled incidental contact," Quenneville said of the play where Toews collided with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick milliseconds after the puck appeared to cross the goal line.
Asked if he was buying that incidental contact explanation, Quenneville responded with two simple words:
Toews was a little more open on the topic.
"I just took it to the net, kind of lost it when I got to the short post," he said. "Obviously the puck was in -- the guys were celebrating.
"I think when it comes down to it, it was disappointing because of how the play was called on the ice, the fact it was non-reviewable."
Shortly after the ruling, the NHL situation room sent out an explanation via email that only got more confusing the more times it was read.
"It was determined Toews' initial shot did not enter the net," the explanation read. "The referee's original call on the ice was 'good goal' but a discussion between the on-ice officials resulted in a 'no goal' decision because Toews made incidental contact with Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick before the puck crossed the goal line. This is not a reviewable play therefore the decision on the ice stands -- no goal and no penalty."
Suddenly, thanks to that ruling, the whole feel of the game was altered as the jet-lagged Kings flew to new heights.
Just 73 seconds after the Toews' Turndown, Tyler Toffoli took a picture-perfect pass from Tanner Pearson and buried one past a helpless Corey Crawford to tie the game at 1-1.
"I thought we lost a little momentum there," Quenneville admitted.
The Kings would go on to outshoot the Hawks 17-6 in the frame, but they wouldn't get anything else past Crawford.
"It was frustrating at the time," said Duncan Keith, who scored the eventual game-winner midway through the second. "You look at it and I don't understand it. But they reviewed it and it is what it is."
Like the champions they are, the Hawks showed tremendous resiliency in not letting the decision affect them down the stretch.
"You just have to," Keith said. "When you have to do something you just do it. If you let it bother you, it's obviously going to affect the way we play. Moving forward there was nothing we can do. So just move on and try to play the right way."
And in the end it all worked out as Toews got his revenge when he scored his sixth goal of the playoffs in the final minutes to seal the verdict and give the Hawks a 1-0 series lead.
"That's what happens in these games," Bryan Bickell said. "There's going to be momentum going both ways, with a good shift or a disallowed goal, to give the other team a spark.
"We stuck with it. We got a nice goal from Duncs and we carried on."
NHL Western Conference finals scheduleThe Chicago Blackhawks will play the Los Angeles Kings in a best-of-seven game series for the Western Conference title.
Game 1: at Blackhawks, 2 p.m. Sunday (NBC/87.7-FM)
Game 2: at Blackhawks, 7 p.m. Wednesday (NBCSN/720-AM)
Game 3: at Los Angeles, 7 p.m. Saturday (NBC/87.7-FM)
Game 4: at Los Angeles, 8 p.m. May 26 (NBCSN/720-AM)
Game 5*: at Blackhawks, 7 p.m. May 28 (NBCSN/720-AM)
Game 6*: at Los Angeles, 8 p.m. May 30 (NBCSN/87.7-FM)
Game 7*: at Blackhawks, 7 p.m. June 1 (NBCSN/720-AM)
* If necessary