The thills and theatrics of sudden-death overtime in the Stanley Cup Final are unparalleled. But, in Game 4 of this year's series, the pivotal walk-off goal had strange energy -- akin to a home run ball perceived as foul by an entire crowd. Nazem Kadri's game-winning wrist shot for the Colorado Avalanche with 8:02 left was chock-full of controversy, as the Tampa Bay Lightning took issue with the officials missing a too-many-men penalty just moments before the goal.
Following the game, Lightning coach Jon Cooper held a brief and tense news conference, questioning the sequence by saying "we probably still should be playing." Several camera angles showed six Colorado skaters on the ice when Kadri received the puck and skated into Tampa's zone -- but, at one point, the Lightning had seven skaters on. Cooper wasn't able to challenge the play, and NHL Hockey Operations said that type of penalty is a "judgement call."
"[Cooper's] very measured, and doesn't really speak out of pocket very often. And even last night, he was trying to stay composed, keep it inside the lines," former NHL goalie and current NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes explained to The Zach Gelb Show on Thursday. "I totally understand his frustration and why. It's difficult to lose a swing game like that. A game that's that impactful. As opposed to 2-2, you're down 3-1 against this juggernaut Avalanche team.
"I can understand his frustration, because margins are so small as they are... There were a few other missed calls that were maybe a little more egregious. They [let them play], no question... It's Sesame Street, you count the people who are out there. Literally, there were too many on the ice... And I know how great our officials are. They're among the best in sports because we have the fastest game. It's hard to get everything right. But, that was a tough one."
Colorado, which owns a commanding 3-1 series lead, will host Tampa Bay for Game 5 on Friday, with puck-drop set for 8 ET. According to FiveThirtyEight's projections, the Avalanche currently have a 92-percent chance to hoist their first Stanley Cup since 2001, and third in franchise history. If the Lightning do overcome the daunting deficit, they'll become the first team since the 1980s New York Islanders to capture three straight championships.
The entire NHL conversation between Weekes and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.