In November Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin didn't have a goal called off after appearing to make contact with Jonathan Bernier, and the Leafs went on to lose in a shootout. On Sunday night, Tyler Bozak had a would-be power-play goal waved off for James van Riemsdyk making incidental contact with Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils.
Upon closer inspection, it didn't look like van Riemsdyk interfered with Schneider.
"I just think that in that situation, specifically, when you review it on replay, it's hard to take the side of the official," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "I don't know any other way to put it politely."
That the Leafs managed to win 3-2 in a shootout relieved some of the frustration. But had Bozak's goal counted, it could have meant a rare regulation victory for Toronto, which has just two in 26 games dating to Nov. 21.
"You're going to get goals taken back, and you're going to get credited for ones that maybe you shouldn't have gotten," said Bozak, who would have had his second of the night and eighth of the season. "It was unfortunate we had one taken back tonight, but in the end we got the two points and that's all that matters."
The referee who waved off Bozak's goal at 6:23 of the third period — Ghislain Hebert — is the same one who worked the game against the Penguins on Nov. 27. Hebert told van Riemsdyk on Sunday night that he hit Schneider, and the Leafs forward was still wondering about the call after checking out the replay.
"He gave me his thought and I asked him if he could watch it after the game and maybe next time we have a game he can apologize or something because that was pretty brutal," van Riemsdyk said.
Schneider didn't vociferously defend the call, saying more that the Devils will take the break they got.
"There's always guys bumping you or fighting for position," he said. "I don't know where he was in relation to me. I was more kind of falling back to try to make the save on the rebound. Sometimes you get bumped and it doesn't get called, and that time fortunately it did."
There's no telling whether the Leafs would have held the lead for the final six-plus minutes or how the game would have changed, but Carlyle pointed out that his team had zero scoring chances until the shootout after Bozak's goal was called off.
"There was still that little moment after that, where I think we didn't play very well, and we've still got to stop doing things like that," Bozak said.
The call didn't send Carlyle or his players rushing to judgment about wanting coach's challenges introduced to the NHL immediately.
Instead, the message was about making the most of good fortune and working past misfortune.
"Some of your luck that we had in the beginning of the year has now gone the other way on us, and that's what you've got to understand that when things are going well for you, you've got to take advantage of it," Carlyle said. "But when things are being difficult for you, you've got to find ways and you've got to manufacture points and you've got to just find a way to grind it out."
In beating the Devils to snap their losing streak at four, the Leafs did just that.
"Some calls go against you like that, but I felt that we responded in the right way," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "Any time you score a big goal like that and it gets called off, there's some disappointment, but we found a way."
— Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at @SWhyno.