Goal talk doesn't stop at Cup finals

Updated: June 15, 2006, 3:07 AM ET
By Joy Russo | ESPN.com

EDMONTON, Alberta -- It's something that always seems to happen each playoff year. A messy goal that leads to a controversial call, which leads to a war of words.

Sunday's off-day at the 2006 Stanley Cup finals was no different.

Cup Runneth Over

• World Cup fever is alive and well at the Stanley Cup finals. Since the event began on Friday, televisions have been tuned to matches throughout the press areas and players have been seen kicking a soccer ball around in the back halls of RBC Center and Rexall Place.

Carolina rookie netminder Cam Ward has been among those taking part.

"Obviously, [the World Cup] is huge. I am thinking of trying out next year for Team Canada, we'll see how it goes. It's something we do as a team to have some fun and get loose at the same time, kind of get your mind off the pressure of the game.

When asked if he would be a goalie on a soccer team, Ward joked, "I'd be a goal scorer in soccer."

• A funny scene after Sunday's morning skate. Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger leaving Rexall Place with his 2-year-old son, Jack, who was carrying a smaller version of a goalie's stick. Pronger, pushing a star-struck Jack through the throng of waiting reporters, was holding another child-sized hockey stick and a bag of Cheetos. Jack was not available for comment.

Ryan Smyth's game-winning goal off a rebound with 2:15 left in the third period gave the Oilers a must-win 2-1 decision over the Hurricanes in Game 3 Saturday, cutting Carolina's lead in the series to 2-1.

Carolina was incensed by the goal and believed that the Oilers interfered with rookie goalie Cam Ward. Officials reviewed the play -- judgment calls like the interference are not reviewable -- to make sure Smyth didn't kick in the puck.

The goal stood. The Oilers won the game. Venom spewed.

"It's not so much the interference, it's the explanation that's what gets me," Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour said afterward Saturday. "[The referee] said it hit [Smyth] outside the crease and it went in. Well, that's not what happened. ... It's not how it goes down, it's a crock. ... This is the National Hockey League, what do you expect?"

The Oilers spent most of Sunday's off-day explaining themselves as the questions kept coming: Do the Hurricanes have a right to be mad about the goal? What is going through your mind when you hear Carolina players complaining about the winning goal? Will it carry over into Game 4?

But many acknowledged that these types of calls can go either way. As Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said, "Were they OK with the quick whistle on [Ethan Moreau's] disallowed goal? Were they OK with that one?"

Moreau thought he had scored a short-handed goal in the second period, when he took numerous whacks at a rebound as Ward tried to cover up the puck. Referee Mick McGeough, standing diagonally behind the net, didn't see the puck and blew the whistle just before Moreau put the puck in.

Added MacTavish: "I really don't want to go down whether their complaints are legitimate or not, but I think you get the drift that we could make a case for them not having been screwed by the officials up until this point in the series. We could make it if we need to."

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, maintained they had issue with the explanation (or lack thereof) of the call, not the actual goal itself.

Brind'Amour had a goal similar to Smyth's called off in Game 4 of Carolina's first-round series against Montreal. Brind'Amour was in the crease when he put a rebound past Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet. One referee called it a goal, while another blew his whistle before the puck crossed the line. Brind'Amour took issue with that call then, but wound up scoring the winner later in the game to tie that series at 2.

Brind'Amour reiterated Sunday that he only wanted a consistent explanation. He was told after that game against Montreal that "a goalie has to be able to make the move to stop the puck if you are in the crease and you can't impede that."

"I still think it should be a goal. The [player] is not, I don't think, intentionally trying to go in there to knock it in. It happened to hit him as he was going, but they have said before they made a precedent that that wasn't going to be allowed. That's why it irks us, but that's water under the bridge now."

Only if the Oilers lose the series.

Joy Russo is the NHL editor for ESPN.com.