It was mostly a sleepy afternoon in South Philadelphia as the Flyers slogged their way into overtime against the Calgary Flames. Until it looked like the Flyers scored the game-winner on the power play.
Except it was waved off, with officials whistling Chris Pronger for unsportsmanlike conduct after the defenseman made a gesture in front of Miikka Kiprusoff before the goal. Mike Richards’ shot – which didn’t hit Pronger – went into the net but didn’t count, and the Flyers went on to lose the game 3-2 in a shootout Friday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
On replays, it’s clear that Pronger waves his left hand in front of the face of the Flames goaltender. Richards and others said they thought Pronger was calling for the puck on the play, as he was stationed in front on a 4-on-3 power play. It was an enforcement of a Rule 75 interpretation put in place a couple years ago after Sean Avery stood facing Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and tried to distract him by waving his arms.
Pronger said he wasn’t given an explanation on the ice as to why he was sent to the box and the goal disallowed. It was referee Ghislain Hebert who made the call. Head referee Don VanMassenhoven declined comment to reporters afterward.
“They know they screwed up, that’s why,” Pronger said. “… I’m not gonna get into he said, she said with the refs. I’m the he.”
Whether it was Pronger’s intent to distract the Flames goaltender or just call for a shot, the call came very late – well after the incident.
“It went in the net, and it was five seconds before the puck went in the net. I wasn’t turned around at him, waving in his face,” Pronger said. “I was right here, I had my arm out, put my arm back on my stick, the puck went in the net.”
Boos rained down from the crowd as Pronger went to the penalty box and the Flyers were incensed by the call. Sergei Bobrovsky gave up goals to two of the three Flames he faced in the shootout, and the Flyers left their Black Friday matinee with just a single point to show for their efforts.
According to the players, they didn’t deserve that point to begin with.
“I didn’t think we played well enough to deserve it,” Richards said. “We didn’t skate well enough to win.”
Though the Flyers outshot Calgary 36-30, they went 0-for-5 on the power play and were outplayed for much of the afternoon.
“I think that we played a hungry hockey team [Friday afternoon in Calgary that skated hard and worked hard,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’re capable of playing better; I don’t know if we stole a point – I wouldn’t go as far as to say that.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the Flyers, who return to action Saturday afternoon for another 1 p.m. start, this time at the Devils.
“It would’ve been nice to get the two points,” Richards said. “A little bit frustrated, but we got a game [Saturday], so we gotta turn right around and focus on that.”
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