TORONTO - Mike Sullivan waded into the scrum of reporters and was asked point-blank if he knows what constitutes goalie interference in today's NHL.
"No," said the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, before repeating the answer: "No."
Sullivan was left fuming after his team had a goal erased at a crucial moment in Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs — the latest example of confusion surrounding what has quickly become the league's most controversial rule.
With the Penguins trailing 3-0 late in the second period, Pittsburgh's Brian Dumoulin made a strong move to the net past Leafs defenceman Ron Hainsey before tucking a shot inside Frederik Andersen's far post.
But referee Dean Morton immediately waved the play off for goalie interference and assessed Dumoulin a minor penalty after it was deemed he made contact with Andersen's head while passing through the crease with Hainsey shoving him from behind.
Sullivan and the rest of the Penguins bench was livid — the play wasn't challengeable because a penalty had been assessed — and things got worse when Toronto's Mitch Marner scored on the ensuing power play to put the game out of reach.
"I disagree with the call, but you know, they see it a certain way out there," Sullivan said. "I do think the call should be challengeable because it's a turning point in the game. It's a two-goal swing.
"Based on everything that I watched and saw, it looked to me like it was a good goal."
Goalie interference has been hot topic all season, with seemingly different interpretations of the rule popping up across the league.
And with the playoffs approaching, Sullivan said it's troubling things remain so unclear.
"It's a huge issue," he said. "It's been discussed all year long. It's seems like every week this issue gets raised. It's a challenge that the league has to try and iron out. I know it's being discussed. Everybody's got to do their best to try and clarify the language and clarify the criteria.
"I don't think anybody really knows what's goalie interference and what isn't."
Like his coach, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby just wants some clarity.
"If there was any contact it was after the puck went in," he said. "It's obviously easy to say that after you see a replay ... it's a big play in the game."
"I would rather them just wait and make a call," Crosby continued. "Let us use our challenge. That's probably the biggest thing. That's one thing. Then when you get to the challenge, how do you identify what is and what isn't (interference)?"
The play in question also got the attention of Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn, whose team plays the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
"2 mins for scoring. Huh?" Benn tweeted along with a red Maple Leaf and penguin emoji.
The Leafs have had more than their share of controversial goalie interference calls this year, including one in Monday's 5-3 loss to Buffalo where head coach Mike Babcock unsuccessfully challenged the Sabres' fifth goal.
He was happy to pass the buck Saturday.
"The greatest thing about all of this stuff is I've had enough of my own issues," Babcock said. "It does you no good to talk about it."
Andersen, not surprisingly, felt the right decision was made.
"(Dumoulin) went through the crease, right? That's what I saw," said the netminder. "There's a lot of space outside the crease. If he'd stayed outside, (he'd) maybe scored. But that's the rule."
But it's that rule, and its inconsistent interpretation, that's causing so much controversy.
"It's really hard for the officials to call something that quick," Crosby said. "Goalies are trying to make the saves. They're well aware now that if there's contact, they're going to make sure they sell it, too. It's something that everyone's trying to do their best. As players, we're trying to stay out of the blue paint. I'm sure officials are trying to get every (call) right.
"They have to make a quick call, and that's the way it went. We probably didn't deserve to win tonight anyway."
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