I must admit I was giddy last night, because the Ryan O'Byrne own goal was simply one of those rare, rare moments I've never seen "live" before. Better yet, it came so clearly against the run of play, with the Habs controlling the puck, leading late and about to get another power play. The best part was watching Doug Weight point at the net and raise his arms before the puck even crossed the line -- as if to direct the officials: "I didn't touch the puck, this is going to be a legit goal, DON'T YOU DARE ruin it by blowing the whistle!"
I let out a stunned yelp akin to that of my dog when the Mysterious Dishwasher Spirit turns on without warning. Mrs. Lighthouse was grading a stack of papers at the time, and my reaction startled her into losing her train of thought. She was not pleased: You do not mess with her when she has 60 papers to weed through. So, in addition to half of Quebec howling, some kid just got an 'F' on his essay thanks to Ryan O'Byrne.
This was even bizarre by bizarre goal standards: Many of these goalie-pulled own goals, including the time Billy Smith "scored" against the Rockies, are at least errant passes from the offensive zone. But this was a pass in earnest from the defensive zone, with O'Byrne apparently unaware that Canadiens goalie Carey Price was 60 feet away. The whole sequence made little sense -- from the phantom penalty (no one is certain when the foul occurred, nor whether an Islander touched the puck afterward) to the goal credit going to Bill Guerin.
Poor O'Byrne never touched the ice the rest of the game. The reactions last night and today from players, fans and reporters have ranged from ridicule to compassion to "it's part of the game" mantras. A sampling after the jump:
Cornell product O'Byrne, on fans booing mercilessly and serenading his name after the game:
''I feel bad, I apologized to everyone in the room,'' said O'Byrne, who didn't see the ice for the remainder of the game. ''The fans are eager for victories and they had a right to react the way they did.''
O'Byrne also said, in post-game interviews shown on NHL Network: "It can certainly be tough. But the guys were good about it. It happens to everyone. I guess I'll be on blooper reels for quite some time." Yes, yes I believe so.
Islander Richard Park echoed the sentiments of most of his team:
"That's unfortunate. He's a good young player. As a player, that could easily be any one of us. We benefit from it, but it's one of those things and we'll take the two points."
"Goal scorer" Bill Guerin was as clueless as O'Byrne on the play. This is why it'd be cool if hockey acted like soccer and just recorded it as "Own Goal" by the actual victim. Or if an Islander must have it for stats' purposes, at least let official scorers make a judgment call and credit it to Weight, whose pressure clearly caused it more than Guerin, who last touched it two passes ago:
What was unclear after the game, even to the players involved, was whether Guerin poked the puck up the right-wing boards before or after the call on Bergenheim. Because Guerin was the last Islander to touch the puck, he got credit for the goal.
"I didn't know what was going on," Guerin said. "My back was to the referee. I was facing the boards…I didn't even know there was a goal scored."
Four Habs Fans on the morning after:
We are now taking ideas for a clever name for this, this thing, in the comments. We're leaning towards "Ryan O'Burns his own team leading to years of psychotherapy", but that's a mouthful.
Judging by the comments in that post ("Uh-O'Byrne" was a cleaner one), and words of announcers, Habs fans are not Fans O'Byrne. He was one of the Habs arrested last season in a weird, uh, purse theft in Florida. Just two weeks ago, O'Byrne had this to say about sophomore struggles that put him in and out of the lineup:
"As a rookie, you go in there guns a-blazin', trying to make the team, get a spot," said the 23-year-old from Victoria. "Your sophomore year, you come in and you don't want to lose your spot. It's kind of a weird mindset. You're not allowed to make those rookie mistakes anymore. The leniency isn't there."
Habs Fan in NYC had a matter-of-fact quip:
Josh Gorges and Ryan O'Byrne both scored their second career goals last night; Gorges on a PP slapper, and O'Byrne on a delayed penalty wrist shot into his own empty net—he says was passing it back to his goalie but Carey Price couldn't quite reach it 100 feet away on the bench.
I'll leave the last word to hockey writing legend Red Fisher in the Montreal Gazette:
I say NHLers should know when their goaltender has left the net. If they don't, they shouldn't be playing at this level.