Times the NHL Playoffs Needed Instant Replay

Instant replay has been a blessing and a curse for NHL teams. While replay has expanded to include things like an offsides call or a puck out of play, those expansions came out of necessity, and it’s often after controversy over a perceived missed call. 

Those calls can dramatically change a team’s Stanley Cup odds, whether it’s in the first game of the playoffs or late in the Cup Final. Here are some of the most memorable instant replay moments in the NHL playoffs. 

1999 Stanley Cup Final

The 1999 Stanley Cup Final between the Dallas Stars and the Buffalo Sabres was a hard-fought series. Four of the games were decided by one goal, two of the games went to overtime, and Game Six went to three extra sessions before the Cup-winning goal was scored. 

Dallas forward Jere Lehtinen sent the puck towards the net, and Buffalo goaltender Dominik Hašek made the save. With the puck loose in the crease, Dallas’ Brett Hull gathered in the puck and tapped it into the back of the net for a 3-2 win for the Stars, clinching the series. 

But to the disgust of Sabres fans, a controversial rule introduced for that season could’ve overturned the goal. At the time, the NHL prohibited players from establishing a position in the crease until after they had control of the puck. Video replay showed Hull was in the crease prior to possession, though the play was not reviewed. 

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff came to the bench screaming to ask NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (who was on the ice for the Cup presentation ceremony) why the play wasn’t review, and the moment lives on among Sabres fans who will forever discuss the moment as “No Goal.”

2004 Stanley Cup Final

Another one of the most famous examples of instant replay came in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final between the Calgary Flames and the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the game tied 2-2 in the third period, Flames forward Martin Gélinas crashed the net and redirected the puck towards the net with his skate (a legal play, as it was not kicked towards the goal). Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was credited with a save and play continued. 

However, replay evidence appeared to show the puck completely crossing the line. Various angles were inconclusive, and the play was not reviewed during the game. The Lightning went on to win the game 3-2 in overtime, and took Game Seven as the series returned to Tampa, leaving Flames fans to wonder what could’ve been if they were credited with the goal and given the lead. 

1993 Clarence Campbell Conference Final

Our final example of a famous non-call that could have been altered with video replay involved the legendary Wayne Gretzky and famed referee Kerry Fraser. 

With the game between the Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs tied 4-4 in overtime, Gretzky skated through the offensive zone and inadvertently caught Leafs defenseman Doug Gilmour with a high stick, cutting Gilmour on the play. Fraser did not see the play, but if he did, the resulting penalty would have been a five-minute major penalty assessed to Gretzky, along with a game misconduct, taking “The Great One” out for the rest of the game and giving the Leafs a chance to score. 

Unfortunately for Toronto, no penalty was called on the play, and Gretzky scored on the following faceoff seconds later to win the game 5-4. The Kings also won Game Seven, ending the Maple Leafs’ hopes of ending their Cup drought (their last Cup win came in 1967). 

Video replay could’ve taken the NHL’s all-time leading scorer off the ice in a pivotal moment, but instead, the fortunes were reversed. Though Los Angeles did not end up winning the Stanley Cup that season, the Leafs were favored in the series against the Kings and would’ve matchup up well against the Montreal Canadiens for the Cup Final that season. 

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