Wednesday night was great theater for NHL fans. In Pittsburgh, the Penguins kept hope alive with a stirring 3-2 overtime win over Washington. Shortly after that game ended, the Carolina Hurricanes needed less than three minutes of overtime to finish off Boston, 3-2.
The Penguins' huge win was not without at least some controversy. The Capitals were fuming afterward about a 7-2 disparity in power plays that worked in Pittsburgh's favor.
Obviously, such a gap is not terribly common, especially in playoff games. Whether those who govern this great sport want to admit it or not, there appears to be at least a subconscious effort going on most of the time to keep teams within a couple power plays of each other whenever possible.
The league will deny this until they're blue in the face, but the facts don't lie.
With that in mind, reality suggests officiating will usually even out. This is especially true when a team starts whining about it. Head coach Bruce Boudreau and star Alex Ovechkin were asked about the calls in their postgame media sessions.
"I hope I never hear them complain about penalties again -- picks and everything else," Boudreau said. "I think we might have deserved the penalties, but they sure as hell deserved a few more than they got."
Ovechkin, Boudreau's star, was asked about the officiating as well. Rarely does a man so sure of himself stammer so much.
"I don't want to talk about referee," he said. Pressed on whether his team needed more discipline -- Ovechkin himself was called for interfering with Sidney Crosby in the third period -- he stammered some more.
"The penalties was . . . I don't want to talk about it," he said. "They have only two penalties. It's kind of a joke, I think."
I can't say I saw every Washington penalty. Of their five calls that weren't for delay of game (Washington took two penalties for pucks sent out of play from their defensive zone), I can't raise a fair argument about any of them.
Does that mean Pittsburgh was saintly all night? Not at all. The interference call on Pascal Dupuis in the final minutes -- which led to Washington's game-tying goal -- was one of many occurrences of obstruction I saw from the Penguins during the game. They set a handful of picks during the game, and got away with all but one of them.
However, just saying that and nothing else is unfair to Pittsburgh. They drew penalties by moving their feet and generally being the better team. Washington got away with some obstruction-type penalties, too, because they were simply struggling to keep up in the second and third periods.
You can expect plenty of officiating talk as we head into Game 4 on Friday. Thanks to Boudreau and Ovechkin, every call made in that game will be scrutinized.
Capitals Gripe About Officiating originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on Thu, 07 May 2009 12:40:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.