It’ll be quite some time before hockey fans – in particular Vegas Golden Knights supporters – stop talking about how exactly the San Jose Sharks advanced to the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That’s because a blown penalty call had a direct impact on the Sharks’ incredible Game 7 comeback victory earlier this week. Apparently, though, not all hockey pundits thought it was a blown call as Don Cherry defended the officials.
With Vegas up 3-0 midway through the third period, Golden Knights centre Cody Eakin was assessed a cross-checking major on a fluke play that ended with Sharks captain Joe Pavelski unconscious and bleeding.
Eakin gave Pavelski a light two-handed shove with his stick – a common occurrence during faceoffs – that caused the Sharks forward to lose his balance. Then, Paul Stastny got tangled up with Pavelski as the Vegas forward attempted to skate to the point to cover his man.
Unfortunately for Pavelski he was unable to protect himself while falling and his head hit the ice hard.
“He’s laying there, he’s bleeding like a stuck pig,” Cherry said Saturday during the Coach’s Corner segment of Hockey Night in Canada. “There is a cross check and he’s going down, but it’s not much of a crosscheck. … Blood’s all over the place, so you’ve got to think of the referee. The two of them, they’re standing there, they see the blood, they carry [Pavelski] off and the whole deal. I’m sticking up for the referee. He can’t call nothing. He can’t call [a two-minute penalty] because the guy’s bleeding so he’s got to call five.”
The Sharks went on to score four goals on the extended power play. Vegas tied the game 4-4 with 47 seconds remaining in the third period to send the game to overtime and Sharks forward Barclay Goodrow scored the OT winner.
Golden Knights head coach Gerrard Gallant said it was “an awful call” after the game and the vast majority of onlookers agreed.
“They said that basically he cross-checked him across the face and we all saw that didn’t happen,” Gallant told reporters in San Jose after the game. “Last year we’re in the Stanley Cup Final and it was tough to lose. Tonight was tougher than that.
“I’m sure you’ve all seen it on TV, there was no intent. I feel awful Joe got hurt, he’s a class player for that team, everybody loves him. There was no intent. There was no high stick that hit him in the face. … We all saw it. It’s too bad we ended up losing because of that.”
Cherry said he’s a huge fan of Gallant but at the end of the day, “You can’t blame the referees on that one.”
Two days after the loss, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley told The Associated Press he received a phone call from a high-ranking NHL executive who apologized for what he described as a “bad call.”
Cherry said he didn’t like that Foley went public with that information.
“That is bad when you do that because it makes the referees look bad and those referees weren’t bad in that game at all,” Cherry said. “It wasn’t their fault at all.”
The two referees that game were veteran officials Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt, however the pair were not assigned to any second-round series. Both Cherry and Ron MacLean disliked learning of that.
“I don’t like the league sending them home,” MacLean said. “That’s unbelievable.”
The Sharks moved on to face the Colorado Avalanche. Suffice it to say TV ratings in Nevada for that series might not break any records.