Challenge system takes center stage in NHL playoffs

Aaron Ekblad had a big goal for the Florida Panthers, and then it was gone. Same for Vladimir Tarasenko in St. Louis last week. Andrew Shaw of the Chicago Blackhawks and Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers got to keep their clutch scores.

The breakout star of the first round of the NHL playoffs is the coach's challenge, and it seems as if no one is quite sure how they feel about that.

There were a couple more on Sunday, including an offside ruling that negated Ekblad's goal in the second period of Florida's 4-3 overtime loss at the New York Islanders.

"The rule is there, it's in place and you have to do as good a job as possible as a staff and as a group to execute within the rule," Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol said. "We're seeing how important and how much of an impact it's had on a couple of games."

The NHL approved the coach's challenge system last summer, and it was used 266 times in the regular season, with 68 plays overturned. The system was mostly praised, save for the occasional display from a coach or player upset when a reversal went against their team.

The addition of blue-line cameras for the playoffs has created additional scrutiny — and set the table for discussions on how to improve things.

"That's probably for summer-time conversation," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said when asked if the coach's challenge is good for the game.

A pair of challenges went against the Blues in the third period of their 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of their first-round series. Tarasenko's tiebreaking goal was wiped out by a razor-thin offside ruling on Jori Lehtera based on video from the blue-line cameras. There was a video review of Shaw's tiebreaking goal before Hitchcock unsuccessfully challenged the play, arguing goaltender Brian Elliott had been pushed into the net on the score.

There is a lot of waiting.

"They get the OK from Toronto before the challenge and then we challenge and then there's another seven or eight minutes," Blues center Paul Stastny said. "I think the game's changed so much, I guess that's the only downside to the challenges. You don't mind them for certain reasons, but you want to get an answer in 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, quick; almost like a quick timeout basically."

Florida almost had a 3-0 lead in the second period against New York, but Ekblad's first career playoff goal was thrown out when Islanders video coach Matt Bertani got coach Jack Capuano to challenge the play and video showed Florida was offside when it entered the zone.

"That was the turning point," Capuano said. "Down by two is a lot different than down by three."

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AP Sports Writers Stephen Whyno and Vin A. Cherwoo contributed to this report.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap