NHL looking into Kings' clock error

Updated: February 2, 2012, 11:29 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TORONTO -- The NHL is investigating a scoreboard error that could have an "enormous impact" on playoff races in the Western Conference.

During Wednesday night's game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the clock briefly stopped in the closing seconds -- giving Drew Doughty enough time to score the winning goal as the Kings beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2.

The puck officially crossed the line with less than a second to play in regulation. However, when the Blue Jackets looked at video after the game, they discovered the clock froze for roughly a second just prior to Doughty's goal -- meaning time should have expired before the puck crossed the line.

The NHL's video room looked at the play immediately after the goal was scored, but didn't notice that the clock had stopped running while the Kings were buzzing around the net.

"We didn't even look to go back and say, 'OK, did something happen [with the clock]?' " Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said Thursday.

"When it crosses the line [and] you review it, you back the puck out and you see what the clock was. And the clock was 0.4 [seconds].

"And then after the game, minutes after the game, we see [it and say], 'Holy cow.' "

Campbell confirmed that the goal shouldn't have counted, and said the league would conduct an investigation to determine what caused the error.

Campbell told ESPN.com that regardless of the league's findings, the result of the game won't be changed.

"Once the game is over, it's over," Campbell said.

Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the issue on his weekly radio show Thursday.

"Not good, not acceptable -- if [the clock] had run straight through, the game would have been at a tie at that point, would have gone to overtime," Bettman said, according to NHL.com. "And maybe L.A. would have won anyway, maybe not. That's not the point. We are taking this very seriously. We're investigating as to how it happened. Obviously it's either human error or a technology glitch. We don't know which, but we've already begun investigating and we will get to the bottom of it.

"Now I know lots of people are going to say, 'How can you have a mistake?' Well, unfortunately or fortunately, our game is full of mistakes -- by players, by coaches and occasionally by officials -- and on some levels it's no different than if a guy makes a bad penalty call, puts a team on the power play and they score the winning goal. It happens. We don't like when it happens and our job is to minimize mistakes. We don't want any, but obviously when you have a human element in any aspect of the game you're going to have it.

"If we had any reason to believe that this was intentional we would deal with it in a whole different way, but we're going to investigate it, get to the bottom of it."

When reached by ESPN.com, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi responded with a curious email:

"Those clocks are sophisticated instruments that calculate time by measuring electrical charges called coulombs -- 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 devise quite frankly."

The Blue Jackets were upset by an incident that cost them at least one point in the standings.

Even though the team has the NHL's worst record, general manager Scott Howson wrote in a blog post, the unjust result "matters to our players, to our coaches, every person in our organization and our fans."

"We will never know if we should have had one point or two points in the standings. What we do know is that we should not have had zero," Howson wrote. "Anyone who has competed at a high level of sports knows that when you put everything into a game, the result matters. And to have the result altered unfairly stings."

The post was removed later Thursday from Howson's blog.

There's also the question of what it might mean for teams battling the Kings for playoff position. Los Angeles is seventh, with 60 points, in the Western Conference entering Thursday night's games.

San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, whose team is just two points ahead of the Kings for the Pacific Division lead, declined to comment, when reached by ESPN.com.

The Calgary Flames, eight points behind the Kings in the conference, said in a statement that they were fully aware nothing could be done.

"Rather than crying over what happened in a game in which we did not take part, our time and energies are devoted to our own team and doing everything we can to win the games we play and in so doing qualify for the postseason," Flames GM Jay Feaster said.

"This extra point in the standings [for the Kings] could have an enormous impact both competitively and economically," Howson wrote in his blog. "What if the Kings make the playoffs by one point or gain home ice advantage by one point? We could be talking about a team not making the playoffs and missing out on millions of dollars in playoff gates. No one can ever convince me that this result does not matter."

Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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