There are plenty of reasons why the Blackhawks find themselves down 3-0 in their opening-round series with the Predators, from the back-to-back Pekka Rinne road shutouts to open the series to the Nashville pressure in overtime of Game 3, which ended with a pretty Kevin Fiala winner to complete the Predators' comeback, 3-2.
But Monday night's Game 3 OT may not happened at all if not for a controversial moment late in the third period -- one that will be dissected not just in Chicago on Tuesday, but wherever and whenever fans are trying to better understand the gray areas of the league's goaltender-interference rules.
Chicago had jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Preds, and clung to a 2-1 advantage late in the third period, when it appeared that Nashville's Viktor Arvidsson interfered with Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford on Filip Forsberg's tying goal.
But after a challenge and a video review, the goal was allowed to stand, with the league saying in a statement only that, per the referee, there were no goaltender interference infractions on the play. The NBCSN postgame show chalked it up to incidental interference, which meant the goal would stand, since Crawford was just outside the blue paint of the goal crease.
Watch the goal and judge for yourself:
And here's the rule in question:
Arvidsson nails every criteria of rule 69.4. Should have been goalie interference. Could cost the Hawks a game. pic.twitter.com/XABsXoiiA2- Dan Weiss (@DanWeissPBP) April 18, 2017
It's the line beginning with "however…" that would appear to matter in this instance: Did Arvidsson make a "reasonable effort" to avoid contact with Crawford? Here's where the frame-by-frame breakdowns kick in. Was he spinning into an attacking position, and not necessarily trying to make contact? Or does a stick check not indicate some level of intention?
Had the goal not counted, and had the Blackhawks held on to win, Chicago would have been right back in the series, possibly getting its groove back after a late-season slump and a pair of home losses to open the playoffs. Instead, the Hawks are in danger of being swept by a dangerous Nashville team. During the regular season, the Preds had the fifth best 5-on-5 Corsi For Percentage, per Corsica (though their numbers in one-goal games weren't quite as good).
At times during overtime of Game 3, the Predators applied relentless pressure, and the game would have ended a few minutes earlier if not for a brilliant Crawford save on Fiala in which he kicked a would-be goal away with the blade of his skate. But that save now becomes a footnote in a huge Predators victory, on the wildest night of the postseason so far.
All four games on Monday went into overtime -- the third time in history that four games went to overtime in one night -- and no lead was safe. Boston rallied back from a 3-0 deficit before falling to Ottawa. The Capitals blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before losing to Toronto. And Calgary had a 4-1 lead before Anaheim came back and ultimately won in overtime.
The Maple Leafs are the darlings of the hockey world right now, and with good reason: They're a fun, young team giving fits to the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals. But don't overlook the magnitude of what the Preds are doing: It's not just that the Blackhawks are a consistently tough out in the playoffs, with a core of players that's won three Cups since 2010. It's that this particular team had an especially strong regular season: They finished with 112 points, the second most in franchise history. Now, on Thursday, Chicago could be swept in a postseason series for the first time in 24 years.
The Blackhawks went the first 141 minutes and 5 seconds of this series without scoring; as many had pointed out, prior to Dennis Rasmussen's second-period goal in Game 3, the entire Chicago team had two fewer points than Preds goalie Rinne in this series. But even though the Hawks finally got on the board in Game 3, they also blew a third-period lead, were on the wrong side of a questionable call, then lost in overtime as the Nashville crowd lost its mind with excitement.
Indeed, for the Blackhawks and their fans, Game 3 was a different kind of torture.