For Ryan Smyth, it was like trying to explain the inexplicable. The best he could do was shrug, shake his head and offer a question of his own.
"If it's goaltender interference, that's a penalty, right?" he said. "The guy should be in the box. That's what the rulebook says."
But it's not what referee Dean Morton said. As a result, the Kings lost a go-ahead goal on a penalty that the officials said really wasn't a penalty but was called one anyway.
And when Nashville scored minutes later on what the Kings said really was a penalty that wasn't called, the Predators skated out of Staples Center with a 3-2 win that left the home team's players with a foul taste in their mouths.
"That's two points that we needed and really wanted," Kings goalie Jonathan Quick said, "and we didn't get."
Given the excitement earlier in the period, the goal that actually decided the game was almost boring in comparison. That play started with defenseman Dan Hamhuis throwing the puck on goal from the blue line. Quick made the easy save but couldn't corral a rebound that bounced to Patric Hornqvist, who chipped it home for his 26th goal of the season.
It also ran Nashville's winning streak against the Kings to six, dating to October 2008, and moved the Predators two points closer to the Kings in the Western Conference playoff race.
Afterward, however, much of the focus was on the penalty that was called — and the one that wasn't.
"It's exactly the same play," Kings Coach Terry Murray said. "I've watched the replay two or three times. It's exactly the same play. I don't understand that one."
For the sake of understanding, then, let's review:
After exchanging first-period goals, the Kings and Predators were tied four minutes into the third period when Justin Williams, playing for the second time after breaking an ankle in December, batted a loose puck into the Nashville net.
But the goal was immediately waved off by the officials, who ruled that Smyth interfered with goaltender Pekka Rinne. He didn't interfere enough to draw a penalty, Morton said, just enough to disallow the goal.
"I had one hand on my stick, so I can't interfere with one hand," Smyth said. "He made his call, and it wasn't the call that I obviously saw."
Even Rinne had trouble explaining it.
"I didn't see too much of what really happened," he said. "Those are probably tough for referees to call. But it's good for us."
In any case, it all appeared to be moot when Dustin Brown scored 2½ minutes later to put the Kings ahead. But when Colin Wilson answered 39 seconds later for Nashville, the Kings were again crying foul. Or no foul.
"Or whatever," goalie Jonathan Quick said.
The play started with Jason Arnott bringing the puck up the right-wing boards and dumping it off to Martin Erat, who drove hard at the net. When Erat got there he made contact with Quick, his stick appearing to catch on the goalie's pad and dragging him across the crease. That left the puck unattended for Wilson, who slid it into the empty net to tie the score.
"He just skated in and he took me across the crease. I don't know how that's a goal when five minutes earlier we didn't even touch Rinne and he said it was interference," Quick said. "I don't understand that one bit."
Murray said the explanation he got several minutes later was that the officials didn't see Erat going through the crease.
"The puck was lying there. That's all he saw on their goal," he said.
Murray then moved to brush it all aside. After all, that goal only tied the score. And there was no disputing the goal that won it — a goal the Kings couldn't answer.
"You've got to move on now," Murray said. "The game's over with and we have to know that we've got to come back out with a better start to the game and know what's in front of us. It's going to be demanding."