So Las Vegas, tell us, what were the odds your NHL team would blow a three-goal lead in the final 10:47 of Game 7 in San Jose on Tuesday and eventually lose in overtime?
That’s what we’d all like to know after one of the most remarkable conclusions to a Stanley Cup playoff series in the history of the league.
If you didn’t see it, we’d compare what happened to the Golden Knights to what befell the Golden State Warriors last week when they blew a 31-point lead to the Los Angeles Clippers in the final 19 minutes of their NBA playoff game.
Of course, they lived to bounce another day. And what happened to them wasn’t tethered to a controversial call that helped change the dynamic of momentum of the game.
Let’s roll the tape: The Golden Knights were winning 3-0 and in cruise control when forward Cody Eakin was called for a five-minute major penalty and given a game misconduct after cross-checking Sharks captain Joe Pavelski in the faceoff circle.
Pavelski, who is beloved by Sharks fans, fell heavily to the ice and bled profusely from a cut on his head. The Sharks then took advantage of the extended power play to score four goals and take the lead.
After the Golden Knights tied it in the final minute of regulation, the Sharks won the game in overtime.
Angry after the game, Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault compared what happened to them to what happened to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The officials missed an obvious pass interference call that ultimately led to a Rams win in overtime.
“It’s the same thing as with that football team. The Saints. It changes the whole outcome,” Marchessault said. “They called a bad call, and look where we are. Summer starts, and it’s (expletive) five months now until game one of the regular season starts. It’s awful. You think we were ready to get our summer going here? We’re a great team. It’s unbelievable.”
Marchessault’s main complaint was the decision the officials made to enforce a five-minute major instead of a two-minute minor.
“It’s a (expletive) joke,” he said. “To call five minutes for that? It changed the whole outcome of the game. Like, seriously, what is that? It’s so disappointing. The game’s not even close. It’s 3-0. Call a (two-minute minor)? OK. But a five? For something you don’t even see? You just call the outcome. It’s a (expletive) joke. It’s embarrassing. That’s what it is.”
Apparently, the officials were influenced by the severity of Pavelski’s injury. He had to be helped off the ice with a towel covering his wound. But replay showed that Eakin’s hit only sent Pavelski moving backward where he then was knocked to the ice by Knight’s forward Paul Stastny. There was no direct blow to the head or face.
Marchessault said he heard referee Eric Furlatt say the injury to Pavelski looked bad.
“If it looks pretty bad, then clearly you did not see it,” Marchessault said. “It’s a faceoff. It’s a push. Probably 50 percent of the faceoffs, players – if they lose – they probably give a small cross-check, right? If you want to call the cross-check, fine, call it. It’s a cross-check. But seriously, he falls bad. It’s unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of Joe Pavelski. And he went down, and I really hope he’s OK and he comes back. But that call changes the whole outcome. It changes the whole future of us and the outcome this year. It’s a joke. I would be embarrassed if I was them.”
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said it was the craziest game he’d seven seen. No doubt. Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury seemingly had recovered from a shaky series and was stopping everything sent his way.
And then he couldn’t stop a beach ball.
Six seconds into the penalty. Logan Couture beat Fleury with a wrist shot. Tomas Hertl scored on a deflection at 10:09 to make it 3-2. Then Couture tied it at 12:53 Then Kevin Labance gave the Sharks the lead. San Jose had scored four power goals in 4:07.
Through a pool reporter, the NHL issued a statement from series officiating supervisor Don Van Massenhoven, but would not clarify who which referee made the call.
“The referees called a cross-checking penalty for an infraction that caused a significant injury. In their judgment, the infraction and its result merited a major penalty.”
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said after the game that the on-ice officials saw something that never did happen.
“They said he cross-checked him across the face, and as we all saw, that didn’t happen,” Gallant said. “There was no high-stick that hit him in the face. When Stastny came out, he fell and banged his head on the ice. That’s the unfortunate part of it. It was an awful call. We’ve all seen it. It’s too bad we end up losing because of that because we’re in control of the hockey game.”
The Sharks were inspired by the condition of their captain.
“You see our leader go down. He’s out cold on the ice, and it kind of looked like he was having a seizure. So tough to see, man. Real tough to see,” Couture said. “But you’ve got to give credit to [Joe Thornton]. As soon as we got to that bench, he said, ‘You guys go out and you get f—ing three goals right now.’ And I mean, when a guy that’s played 20 years orders you around like that, bosses you around, you’ve got to go do it. So we did. We got four.”
The Knights tied the game when Marchessault scored with 47 seconds left in regulation with Fleury pulled for an extra skater. Then Barclay Goodrow won it for the Sharks at 18:19 of the first overtime.
The Sharks became only the second team in NHL history to overcome a three-goal, third-period deficit to win a Game 7, joining the 2013 Boston Bruins.
“This one will sting,” Vegas forward Max Pacioretty said. “We thought we played well enough to win this series. We know in the NHL playoffs it comes down to a bounce or two, but this will be tough to digest for a while.”