Bryan Lewis was the National Hockey League's director of officiating from 1989 to 2000 and before that he called more than 1,000 NHL games as a referee, including nine in the Stanley Cup Finals. He's currently the Central Hockey League's Referee-in-Chief, and he says referee Zak Blazic made the right call in awarding Missouri a penalty shot with 19.1 seconds remaining Friday night.
Blazic called Komets' defenseman Brent Henley for delay of game after ruling he intentionally knocked the net off. Missouri's Ed McGrane scored on the subsequent penalty shot to tie the game and force overtime before the Mavericks won 3-2. Henley was engaged with Missouri's John-Scott Dickson behind the net when he tripped and fell forward into the back of the net.
Lewis said he went through the replay of the incident frame-by-frame countless times before Saturday's Game 2 and asked the opinion of countless others in the hockey world.
``The rule was broken, where was the official?'' said Lewis, who is also the father of CHL president Duane Lewis. ``I’m comfortable he was in position. His signal, relative to the penalty shot, was given immediately.
``I’ve been subsequently told that there was a debate between him and a linesman. No. I would do the same thing if I was on the ice. I would want some reassurances. At 2:01 on the clock it’s a delay of game penalty. At 1:59 of the clock or if there were penalties in the penalty box, it becomes a penalty shot. That’s what the conversation was between the referee and the linesman. It was confirmation that it was within the last two minutes. He had already given his signal to center ice for the penalty shot, which he should do and did do.''
Lewis said he could not remember making a similar call during his career as a referee.
``I would say this, I put myself on the ice,'' he said. ``I would not make a call of such significance if I was not 100 percent certain. I think, when you look at the mechanics of what was done and how it was handled, you don’t have to like it. I simply say you must respect it because that’s the way it is written in the rule book. It’s one of those rules that is there for a purpose, and last night the purpose worked in the manner the rules intended for.''
As to whether Henley knocked the net off purposely, Lewis said that was not the question that was presented to him.
``The debate was somebody else did it other than 43,'' he said. ``I’ve been through that. When you watch and see the positioning of the players and watch which leans in and which leans out and where is the stick of the defending player. I have all the comfort in the world in saying was the rule broken? Yes. Was it handled properly? Yes. Did the officials do what they should have done? Yes. Is it unique? Absolutely, but at the end of the day, who broke the rule?''