LOS ANGELES — As it turned out, Los Angeles Kings rookie goaltender Erik Ersberg got his birthday present a couple of days early.
On Thursday night, he earned his first National Hockey League victory and a shutout to boot, and he was all smiles after the game.
On Saturday afternoon, Ersberg turned 26 years old, but there was to be no celebration. In fact, the Montreal Canadiens spoiled the party by handing the Kings a 5-2 defeat in front of a sell-out crowd of 18,118 fans at Staples Center.
Ersberg ended up allowing four goals on just 22 shots, but he could hardly be blamed, as two of the goals came on deflections and the other two were the direct result of defensive breakdowns by the skaters in front of him.
But it was the Kings who struck first, well, at least that is what everyone thought.
With Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek in the box for roughing at 9:26 of the first period, the Kings were on the power play when defenseman Tom Preissing got the puck in the slot and got off a backhand shot, beating Habs goaltender Jaroslav Halak over his right leg pad at the 10:45 mark.
But referee Ian Walsh immediately disallowed the goal, ruling that Kings left wing Kyle Calder was in the crease and had made contact with Halak, preventing him from establishing his position.
Indeed, league Rule 69.3 states, in part:
“If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.”
“If, after any contact by a goalkeeper who is attempting to establish position in his goal crease, the attacking player does not immediately vacate his current position in the goal crease (i.e. give ground to the goalkeeper), and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed. In all such cases, whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a minor penalty for goalkeeper interference.”
However, video replay showed conclusively that while Calder had a skate in the crease, he did not in any way prevent Halak from establishing position.
“That could’ve changed the game,” said Kings right wing Dustin Brown. “I didn’t feel like they were really into it in the first period. Then they got that break, taking away a goal.”
“It was a little strange,” said Kings center Anze Kopitar. “I don’t know what the case was, maybe goalie interference. The guys on the bench said it wasn’t, but that’s what happens in hockey. I think we played pretty good after that, but we gave up a couple of easy goals that cost us the game.”
Kings head coach Marc Crawford was unhappy with the obviously blown call by Walsh, but he resigned himself to chalking it up to the kind of adversity that all teams face.
“The first call was unfortunate because I don’t think that’s the spirit of the call,” said Kings head coach Marc Crawford. “Calder did a great job in front of the net and I didn’t think he impacted the play at all. The letter of the law I suppose. He had his heel in the crease, but it didn’t impede the goaltender at all.”
“I would venture a guess that 99 out of 100 times that play is made the goal is allowed,” added Crawford. “But that’s the breaks of the game and your team’s job is to fight through any adversity.”
The Kings fought through that adversity in the first period, keeping the game scoreless. But in the second period, the Habs took a 1-0 lead on a goal by veteran defenseman Patrice Brisbois at the 5:09 mark…
To read the full story, click: Canadiens Spoil The Party
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