The NHL is investigating whether human error or a glitch in the clock system at Staples Center was responsible for prolonging the Kings’ game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday long enough for Kings defenseman Drew Doughty to score the decisive goal in a 3-2 victory.
Colin Campbell, the league’s senior vice president of hockey operations, said Thursday he believes the Blue Jackets were wronged because the clock was paused with 1.8 seconds left in the third period and Doughty’s goal with .4 of a second left should not have been allowed. “In our opinion it was one full second,” Campbell said of the stoppage.
The decision won’t make much difference to 30th-ranked Columbus but could prove crucial for the Kings, who are battling for a playoff spot.
In determining playoff seedings when teams are tied, wins gained in a shootout are subtracted from each team’s win total and the greater win total gets the better seeding. Had Doughty’s goal been disallowed the game might have gone to the tiebreaker, potentially reducing the Kings’ wins in regulation and overtime.
The pause was not immediately seen by officials in the NHL’s Toronto situation room, where every goal is reviewed. Campbell said the initial concern in Toronto was to determine if the puck had crossed the goal line before time expired according to the clock burned into the corner of the footage they saw. Not until later did they back up the frame-by-frame footage to the moment the clock stopped. Seeing that hesitation with 1.8 seconds left persuaded him Columbus had gotten a bad deal.
“When you look at it, regulation was over when L.A. scored so yes they did,” Campbell said in a phone conversation. “They didn’t have the opportunity to get a point for a tie game. They didn’t get a point from the tie game, which they would have got and they weren’t afforded the opportunity to go for an extra point in overtime or a shootout.”
Campbell said the league had contacted the clock’s manufacturer, Daktronics, to determine if the clock was at fault and will send technicians to Staples Center to examine the clock and the system. Campbell also said the NHL will send a representative to Los Angeles to meet with the off-ice officials, who are employed by the league. That crew includes the person designated the game timekeeper Wednesday—whom Campbell would not identify—as well as the official scorer, penalty timekeeper and others.
Although Campbell said he believed there had been other problems with the Staples Center clock involving basketball games, Staples Center spokesman Michael Roth said he was unaware of such difficulties.
Columbus General Manager Scott Howson posted a blog on the team’s web site criticizing the process that allowed the goal to stand and emphasizing how important the extra point for the win could be for the Kings, but that blog was later removed.
Campbell said investigating the incident is crucial to maintaining trust and credibility in Los Angeles and every other arena in which NHL games are played.
"We have to peruse two areas,” Campbell said. “There’s a human element, where a fellow’s operating the clock. And was there a human mistake here? So was there human error in this case? Is he watching the play? Did he think there was a high stick? Did he think there was a hand pass and he accidentally stopped it and started it? Or was there an error in the Daktronics clock?
“We’ve talked to the Daks people. We’ve also asked them if it’s humanly possible to stop the clock and start it just one second.”
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said via email that the clock was correct and no extra time had been added.
“Those clocks are sophisticated instruments that calculate time by measuring electrical charges called coulombs,” he said. “Given the rapidity and volume of electrons that move through the measuring device the calibrator must adjust at certain points which was the delay you see. The delay is just recalibrating for the clock moving too quickly during the 10 – 10ths of a second before the delay.
“This insures that the actual playing time during a period is exactly 20 minutes. That is not an opinion. That is science. Amazing device quite frankly."
Campbell discounted Lombardi’s comment. “I read it and it sounded interesting,” Campbell said.