MONTREAL -- Last Sunday, the Montreal Canadiens had a chance to take a 3-1 commanding series lead in one of two semis being played. The other, of course, being the Tampa Bay Lightning vs the New York Islanders. Unfortunately, for the Canadiens they didn’t, losing Game 4 on home ice by a score of 2-1 in overtime.

The big story coming out of the game was the officiating or lack thereof. As a matter of fact, the officiating has been the talk of the series. Look, we know that every year the refs call it one way in the NHL regular season and call it another way in the NHL playoffs. The problem for the Montreal Canadiens is that the officiating is lopsided in Vegas’ favour.

In Game 2 of the series, the Vegas Golden Knights did not receive a single penalty.

I need you to think about this one for a second. In a game in Vegas where the Golden Knights at one point trailed 3-0, the Golden Knights never received a penalty. You do not even have to watch a game to know that as much as a team would want to play a disciplined game, playing a game without either a hook, a slash, a trip, a roughing, a cross checking or an interference penalty is virtually impossible.

The Habs, on the other hand, were penalized on two occasions.

In Game 3, Golden Knights defenceman Brayden McNabb plastered Arturi Lehkonen. On that hit, McNabb left his feet and he made contact with Lehkonen’s head. The referee, Chris Lee, was right there. No penalty.

In ovetime, Jonathan Marchesseault high sticked the Habs’ Corey Perry in the face. With a huge gash on his nose and blood dripping all over the ice, Perry looked over at the refs and could not believe that no penalty was issued to Marchesseaullt. Everyone in the world knows that is a four-minute penalty for high sticking. How do refs who are supposed to be the best in the world not know that?

There are four officials on the ice; do we need to put four more? Let’s be honest, the refs knew it was a penalty but it was in overtime and they did not want to influence the outcome of the game.

But, what if Montreal had lost the game but might have won if they would have had a powerplay?

Fast forward to Game 4. Both teams received only one penalty. Nosek hit Weber from behind who did not appreciate it. Both were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

But, there were so many other obvious penalties. Brayden McNabb, him again, punched Habs Nick Suzuki in the face right in front of ref Chris Lee who turned his face the other way after that punch. It is as if he did not want to see it. Alex Tuch, like a wrestler flipped Phillip Danault to the ice.

The officiating in the NHL playoffs and, in particular, during this Vegas vs. Montreal series is embarrassing.

From 2011 to 2020, no NHL team from Canada has won the Stanley Cup. Out of the 26 teams that made it to the final in the last 13 years, only one team of the 26 was Canadian. That was the Vancouver Canucks, who made it to the Cup final in 2011 but lost in seven to the Boston Bruins. Lets face it, you do not need to have a team from Canada in the Cup final because Canadians will watch anways.

The Habs can’t keep hoping that the refereeing wlll fix itself. It won't. If anything, it keeps getting worse and the Canadiens are paying the price for it. People are starting to pay attention. Media all over the hockey world have started to call out the officials for lopsided refereeing in this series.

The Montreal Canadiens are a conservative organization. I don’t remember the last time they called out the league, the officials or any of their staffers for that matter. It’s time. Now more than ever, the time is now. 

Tony Marinaro is a host at TSN 690 Montreal.