Failed challenge proves costly, controversial in loss to Wild

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Joel Quenneville has words for referee Kevin Pollock during the Blackhawks’ 5-2 loss to the Wild on Thursday. (Getty Images)

The NHL changed the rules this year to assess a two-minute penalty for a failed offside challenge in an effort to cut down on lengthy reviews that had been killing the momentum of a game. The idea was to force coaches to be 100 percent sure a play was offside before sending officials to their little tablets to look for a millimeter or two of white ice between a player’s skate and the blue line.

Well, Joel Quenneville was 100 percent sure Jason Zucker was offside before he found Chris Stewart for a go-ahead goal midway through the third period Thursday night.

He was wrong. At least, according to the league. As a result. the goal stood, the Wild scored on the ensuing power play, and a tight game turned into a 5-2 Minnesota victory — the Hawks’ first regulation loss of the season.

According to the league’s explanation for the decision, it was ruled that Brent Seabrook — who had fallen down while Zucker went past him — had carried the puck into his own defensive zone, thereby nullifying the offside per Rule 83.1. But the puck had merely banked off the prone Seabrook’s skate.

“He didn’t carry it and didn’t have possession, so I disagree with that ruling,” a seething Joel Quenneville said. “Plus it was offside. I mean, why didn’t he blow the whistle? Unless he knew that rule and thought he had possession? Or he thought he carried it or controlled it?”

Quenneville had no regrets about challenging the goal, even though it wound up all but deciding the game.

“I wasn’t worried about that [penalty],” Quenneville said. “I still don’t think it should have been a goal.”

Seabrook said the insult-to-injury penalty “sucks,” but put the onus on himself for allowing the 2-on-1 with Zucker and Stewart to happen.

“It’s on me,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job of keeping it [on the neutral-zone side of] the blue line and at least making a play, not giving up a 2-on-1 there at that point. We had just got back to a tie game. Tough one.”

The Wild added two empty-netters after Zucker scored on the delay-of-game power play, rendering Jonathan Toews’ last-minute goal meaningless. But up until the two-goal swing of the challenge, it had been a tight game.

It was quite a sleepy affair for the first two periods. Aside from a vicious right hook from John Hayden during a fight with Marcus Foligno, the United Center crowd was more into the Cubs game than the Hawks game. But the Wild finally broke through in the final minute of the second period, with Eric Staal scoring shortly after the Hawks put 10 straight shots on Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Ryan Hartman knocked in a rebound off a Tanner Kero deflection at 8:21 of the third to tie it, setting the stage for the dramatic — and controversial — challenge.

“You can see how that kind of turns the game around a little bit,” Hartman said. “They install that [delay-of-game penalty] to make sure you know for sure, but it didn’t work out in our favor tonight.”

The Hawks looked a step slow, playing their third game in their third city in four nights — a stretch that’s tougher early in the season, when players aren’t quite in midseason form. The Wild, on the other hand, were playing just their third game overall. Still, the game hinged on that one key sequence.

“They came in ready,” Quenneville said. “They were sharp off the puck drop. I didn’t mind the way we played to that point, but it was definitely a big change.”

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