With repeated chops of his right hand, referee Rob Martell pointed to the Boston net and ruled that yes, a last-second swat by David Backes had crossed the line before time ticked off, and yes, the St. Louis forward had batted the puck in without lifting his stick over crossbar height.
At the time, Bruins coach Claude Julien didn't agree. Later, after video replay upheld Backes's tying goal and the Blues had scored a 5-4 shootout victory, Julien still wasn't sure why the strike counted.
"I guess the best way to describe it is that everybody except the people in charge seemed to think it wasn't a goal," said Julien. "They're the ones who decide. They called it inconclusive. When it's inconclusive, it goes with what the referee called initially, and he called it a goal. Not much else I can say about it."
The game-changing goal wiped out a 4-3 Boston win and allowed St. Louis to squeeze out 2 points after forwards T.J. Oshie and Brad Boyes beat Tim Thomas in the shootout and Blake Wheeler and P.J. Axelsson came up empty at the other end against Chris Mason. And that call - had Martell signaled no goal, the decision would not have been overturned - ultimately led to the Bruins recording a 1-point decision when 2 points seemed like a given.
But as much as the call on Backes's goal at 19:59 of the third helped to decide the outcome, the Bruins were just as culpable in not coming out of TD Banknorth Garden (sellout crowd of 17,565) with a victory.
St. Louis is the worst team in the Western Conference. The Bruins had a two-goal lead with 3:05 remaining in regulation. The Bruins, who had tucked three third-period shots behind the Blues' backup goalie (St. Louis lost starter Manny Legace halfway through the first period because of a lower-body injury), had all the momentum in the final 20 minutes.
They used none of those qualities to their advantage.
"It should never have gotten to that," Julien said of the shootout.
For most of the first 55 minutes, the Bruins played a sleepy match featuring little emotion or technical prowess. They scored the opening goal at 4:26 of the first period when Wheeler, who changed places with Axelsson to ride shotgun with Marc Savard on the No. 1 line, set up Chuck Kobasew for a shot from the slot that beat Legace.
There weren't many other moments of glory.
The Bruins couldn't do much to clear the crease later in the first when forward Brad Winchester parked himself in front of Thomas and tipped a shot by defenseman Jeff Woywitka past the goalie at 7:37. In the second period, Savard couldn't fend off the forecheck of forward Alex Steen, who stripped the center and set up linemate Jay McClement for the go-ahead goal at 6:51.
And then there was the hard-to-watch third period, which featured over 15 minutes of action - if you can call it that - when the Bruins couldn't put a single puck on Mason.
"There was nothing going on," Axelsson said.
At 14:55, the Bruins finally got the break they needed. With forward Dan Hinote already in the penalty box for elbowing, the Blues went two men down when Backes was nabbed for hooking. Julien called a timeout to rest his power-play men, then sent them out to do what was required. Twenty-one seconds later, David Krejci found Michael Ryder in the slot, and the right wing put his team's first shot on goal of the period. Ryder made it count, tying the game at 2-2 at 15:16.
Nineteen seconds later, Axelsson put the Bruins ahead with another power-play strike, punching in the rebound of a Dennis Wideman attempt. At 16:55, Zdeno Chara closed out the scoring barrage with a wrister that deflected past Mason.
Six shots and three goals in a 99-second stretch. Good enough for a win? Not quite.
Stephane Yelle triggered the St. Louis rally by taking a tripping penalty at 17:18. At 18:40, forward David Perron one-timed a shot from the point that Thomas never saw. Then after Wheeler missed an open net and defenseman Barret Jackman made a show-stopping save on Krejci's rebound, the Blues flew the other way and stormed past a stationary Boston defense for the tying sequence. Keith Tkachuk whipped a shot on goal that ticked off Thomas's left arm and popped into the air. Backes charged through the Bruins and whacked the puck in.
Unlike the Bruins, the Blues played until the final buzzer.
"We found a way," said St. Louis coach Andy Murray. "We deserved it."