SAN JOSE – Speaking for the first time since suffering one of the most famous injuries in recent NHL lore, Joe Pavelski weighed in on the debate that followed.
“Was it a five-minute major? No, I don’t think it was,” said the San Jose Sharks captain.
“Am I glad they called it that way? Heck ya.”
It has been 12 days since the Sharks’ leader lay motionless on the ice at SAP Center after being awkwardly dumped onto his head following a late faceoff in Game 7 of their first-round matchup with Vegas. Cross-checked by Cody Eakin after the draw and then twisted up by Paul Stastny on his way down, the hockey world held its breath as blood poured out of his helmet.
Clearly caught up in the moment, the officials handed Eakin a five-minute major that enabled the Sharks to erase a three-goal deficit, score four times and eventually win the game and series in overtime. Neither official was given a second-round assignment, and the league apologized to the Knights for the error.
“The refs have a very tough job with how fast plays happen,” said Pavelski, who planned to fly to Denver with the team Sunday afternoon but likely won’t play in Game 6 Monday.
“It was a very scary play. It gets twisted and everything.
“Was it malicious? I don’t believe so. I’ve got no issues with that play. I’ve played against those guys for a lot of years.
I’m friends with (Stastny). It’s part of the game.”
“Again, I’m glad it was called that way but from that moment on what the guys did after that it was a special night. It was one of the tougher nights, and one of better nights at the same time to see and be a part of.”
Pavelski said he remembers taking the faceoff and then waking up to be surrounded by trainers and Joe Thornton who was “calming him down.”
“‘We got you, we got you, you’re going to be alright,’” said Pavelski of his teammate’s words.
“We had a little bit of a sense it was fairly serious, but them coming back was definitely comforting.”
Able to smile and laugh at it now, Pavelski said his recollection of the comeback was fuzzy, as it happened while he was getting eight staples to close the pressure cut in the back of his head.
“Getting into the training room and kind of sitting there and getting the first staple in the head was when the first goal horn went off,” said the 34-year-old centre, who asked doctors if that meant his team had scored.
“By the time the fourth staple was going in it was going off again. It was like, ‘cool.’
“Looking at the TV and seeing 4-3, it was just kind of like, ‘how did we score all these goals?’ and was told it was a power play. I was really proud how the guys handled it and responded.”
So proud that despite his state he went into the dressing room after Barclay Goodrow’s overtime winner to congratulate the lads.
“I had the headaches and was dizzy at that moment but was able to come out – I wanted to be in that room,” said Pavelski, whose club holds a 3-2 series lead over Colorado.
“I was still very excited for those guys. Then we got everything checked out after.
“We care about each other for sure. It was pretty cool to see those guys come back to tie it and you had that feeling they were going to win, even in overtime. There was a cool, calming sense that I was going to get a chance to recover and get another chance to play in this post-season.”
When that will be is still up in the air despite the fact Pavelski is feeling good.
“You’d like to think you could play (Monday), but we’re going to be smart obviously,” said Pavelski, who said he was tired at times following the injury, but suffered very few concussion symptoms.
“I feel like I’m getting closer. Everything has been improving the last four or five days and getting through training sessions and skating a little bit and start working our way back.”
Smart money says the Sharks will hold him out of the lineup Monday, but that he’d be an excellent ace in the hole to play Wednesday if the series reaches a seventh game.
If his team closes the Avalanche out in Game 6, Pavelski benefits from even more valuable time off and could start the Western Conference Final.
Pavelski said he’s been heartened by the support and love shown by fans, friends and teammates throughout the ordeal.
There may not have been a better moment for him or the fans than late in Saturday night’s win when he was shown on the Jumbotron at SAP Center smiling and waving a rally towel, prompting a chilling ovation.
“I was excited to get out there,” he said.
“Once I saw the crowd and the energy and got into it you realize how much you miss it. These fans are special to me – and this group – they always have been.”
So is the chance to play again – something it looks like he’ll also be able to experience sooner rather than later.
Jumbo Joe was right – he’s going to be okay.