Like a player on a breakaway who pulls back his stick and swings only to hit air, the NHL seems to have completely whiffed on a crucial call to overturn an Avalanche goal Wednesday night.

In the series-deciding Game 7 between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche, star Nathan MacKinnon stole puck just outside the Sharks line and fed Colin Wilson to tie the game up 2-2. It was exhilarating for Avs fans as the road team was struggling to hang in the contest after being down early 2-0.

But, not so fast. San Jose challenged the goal and, after going to NHL headquarters in Toronto, the tying score was overturned. Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche captain, was leaving the ice inside San Jose’s blue line and therefore was offsides when MacKinnon took the puck back into that zone.

Landeskog wasn’t affecting the play, but he was in the zone and it was the right call, at least it seemed.

However, between the second and third periods, Avs head coach Jared Bednar questioned the call, saying, “He said Landeskog was still on the ice, he’s standing right at the bench getting ready to make a change and they have him standing in the zone when the puck goes in. But I have him touching the line before (Nathan) MacKinnon enters which would be a tag out rule for me so I don’t know.”

It turns out, Bednar was correct and Landeskog touched the blue line with the puck in the neutral zone.

Here’s just before the puck goes into the zone:

And, here’s after:

As explained by NHL PR here:

“After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, the Situation Room determined that Gabriel Landeskog did not legally tag up at the blue line prior to the puck entering the offensive zone. The decision was made in accordance to Rule 83.3 (i), “All players of the offending team clear the zone at the same instant (skate contact with the blue line) permitting the attacking players to re-enter the attacking zone…”

It seems clear that Landeskog’s skate touched the blue line with the puck outside of the zone, but if the call were decided to be inconclusive, the call on the ice would stand, which would have meant a 2-2 tie in the second period.

Instead, San Jose led 2-1 and shortly thereafter pushed their lead to 3-1, enjoying a massive momentum swing Colorado couldn’t come back from. The Avalanche eventually lost the season-ending Game 7 3-2, relentlessly attacking in the third period, but coming up short of tying the game.

The Wilson goal, which should have tied the game 2-2 in the second period, wouldn’t have won Colorado the game, but it would have changed the tone of the third period, that’s certain.

For the Avalanche, the loss means their season of resiliency is over, despite fighting for their lives over the last three-plus months. The sky is the limit for this young Colorado team, and if they’re smart, they’ll use this loss as a learning opportunity moving forward.