The four officials huddled by the penalty box. Most of the San Jose Sharks had retreated to the dressing room, believing that Erik Karlsson's goal at 5:23 of overtime had given them a Game 3 win and a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals. None of the St. Louis Blues had left the bench or the ice, believing there was absolutely no chance these officials could have missed the hand pass by the Sharks' Timo Meier that led to that goal.
But they did.
All four of them missed it, marking another blown call in a postseason that has been defined by refereeing controversies and officiating errors. Since the National Hockey League's video review process doesn't include hand passes that lead to goals, the Sharks were victorious. And the Blues were irate.
"I really didn't get an explanation other than, I guess, there's a different set of rules for two different teams, so I'm sure they'll lose some sleep tonight after looking at it," St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo said after the Blues' 5-4 loss to San Jose that left them standing on the bench dumbfounded -- at least the ones who weren't on the ice smashing their sticks in anger.
Just over five minutes into overtime, Meier slid to the ice, waving his stick at the puck. It deflected off St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko and bounced in the air, then off Meier's chest -- and then he swatted it with his right glove. Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester kicked out his leg to stop it, but it trickled to Gustav Nyquist, who fed the puck to Karlsson for a shot that went past goalie Jordan Binnington.
The Sharks celebrated, and the Blues swarmed the officials. Binnington flipped his catching glove up and down to signify that he saw a hand pass. The Blues remained on their bench and on the ice. The remaining Sharks skated to the dressing room after the officials indicated that the goal would stand.
Binnington slammed his stick in anger. Brayden Schenn did the same, breaking it on the end boards. Numerous Blues players waved their arms on the bench in disbelief. But the officials left the ice, under the cover of a canopy that protected them from the cups and cans that began littering the rink from the enraged fans at Enterprise Center, who by then had seen multiple replays of the hand pass on the giant video screen.
In the bowels of the arena, loud displays of anger could be heard. St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong slammed his hand on the door of the officials' dressing room, yelling that the decision was "f---ing garbage."
What did Karlsson see on the play?
"We weren't playing handball, were we?" he said after the game. "We were playing hockey. We deserved to win this game. At the end of the day, I don't think either team drew the shorter stick on any of the calls. Fair game."