Blackhawks’ Drake Caggiula, Olli Maatta move on from Wednesday’s controversy and letdown

For Caggiula, the overturned go-ahead goal with 1:05 left against the Bruins was one of his “best goals that will never count.”

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Olli Maatta thought he’d assisted on arguably the Blackhawks’ biggest goal of the season Wednesday, before a controversial hand pass call (not in this pictured play) overruled it.

Olli Maatta thought he’d assisted on arguably the Blackhawks’ biggest goal of the season Wednesday, before a controversial hand pass call (not in this pictured play) overruled it.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Defenseman Olli Maatta and winger Drake Caggiula were next to the Blackhawks’ bench, in the midst of an exuberant celebration of Caggiula’s go-ahead goal with 1:05 left in regulation Wednesday night, when they first realized something was off.

“All of a sudden, guys were saying, ‘Hold on a sec,’ ” Caggiula said Friday. “Whistles started blowing a couple more times. Then we turn around and they’re waving it off.

“From that moment on, it was just a guessing game. Did they blow it down because they thought [the Bruins] took possession from [a delayed tripping] penalty? Did they blow it down because of a hand pass? We had no idea.”

Hawks fans are well aware of what transpired after that: The goal didn’t count, the Hawks didn’t convert on the ensuing power play, the Bruins won 2-1 in overtime and Hawks center Jonathan Toews said afterward that the referee admitted he’d made a mistake.

It’s a call that could live in infamy if it ends up affecting the Hawks’ tight playoff chase. If not, it will at least be remembered as one of the biggest controversies at the United Center in recent years.

For Caggiula, the goal-scorer, and Maatta, the supposed hand-passer as he was tripped by the Bruins’ Torey Krug, it has been a difficult few days of clearing the episode out of their minds.

“Maatts played it with his hand, then poked it with his stick, and I came in and took it and probably scored one of my best goals that will never count,” Caggiula said. “It is what it is. It’s over now. We just have to move on. It would have been a big point for us, but a little bit of adversity doesn’t hurt anybody. You’ve just got to see how strong you come back from it.”

Both players said they didn’t hear a whistle during the sequence, but it was an unfortunate sound overload, as the fans — frustrated at the officials all night — were simultaneously roaring in appreciation of the tripping call against Krug. Hearing anything else would’ve been difficult. Maatta admitted Friday that “from what I’ve seen, he definitely blew [the whistle].”

The NHL’s officiating department released a statement to NBC Sports Chicago on Thursday backing the initial hand-pass call. Whether the puck hit Maatta’s stick after being pushed by his glove is “not relevant,” they asserted, because contact with the stick does not equate to “possession and control.”

The statement seemed to ease Maatta’s anxiety somewhat.

“They made it clear,” he said. “Can’t do anything about it right now. We have a big game on Sunday [in Winnipeg], so we’ve just got to focus on that.”

Coach Jeremy Colliton echoed Maatta that the team is motivated more now by its upcoming five-game Canadian road trip — all against fellow Western Conference bubble teams — than by residual anger from Wednesday. He said Wednesday that “these things have a way of evening out,” and it’s true the Hawks found themselves on the other end of a similar controversy Dec. 29 in Columbus — a shootout win that should have been an overtime loss, if not for a clock management error by officials.

That’s still little solace for Caggiula.

“Obviously there was frustration, a couple swear words thrown out there,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you’ve just got to try to keep your composure. That’s something we can’t control; we’ve just got to be able to control ourselves. We have to be a little bit better at keeping our highs and lows.”

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