Why wasn’t goalie interference called on the game-tying goal in Blackhawks-Predators?

It was a judgment call over whether the contact was incidental. The officials decided it was.

Game 3 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators headed to overtime Monday night after a controversial call in the third period. Viktor Arvidsson appeared to commit goalie interference on the Predators’ game-tying goal, but the referees allowed it to stand after video review.

Here’s the play at hand:

So what gives?

The simple answer is that the NHL rulebook made this a judgment call for the referees regarding whether Arvidsson made incidental contact with Crawford. You can do that when the goaltender is outside the crease, per Rule 69, as there’s a higher standard for calling a penalty than when the goalie is inside his crease.

Here’s the full description of the rule:

Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgement of the Referee(s), but may be subject to a Coach’s Challenge (see Rule 78)

Goals are only disallowed when a goalie is outside his crease if contact is “intentional or deliberate.” So in this case, the referees weren’t ruling on whether Arvidsson made contact with Crawford, but whether that contact was incidental or intentional. They decided it was incidental.

However, it’s fair to wonder whether that’s the right call. If you look at replays, Arvidsson takes a whack at Crawford’s stick while making contact with him. Even if the stick check isn’t the primary thing that impedes the goalie’s movement, does that not indicate this contact was actually intentionally, not incidental? Unfortunately the league’s official response doesn’t provide much help.

Now it doesn’t matter much as the Blackhawks trail 3-0 in the series after the Predators won Game 3 in overtime. This call went in Nashville’s direction, and now it’ll haunt fans’ memories for the rest of time.