SAN JOSE, Calif. — It’s going to be talked about forever in Vegas. Tuesday’s game may have a snazzy nickname one day, that’s how unbelievable and downright insane of a hockey game it was.
Every Golden Knights fan will remember where they were when Cody Eakin was called for a five-minute cross-checking major and a game misconduct. Vegas was up three goals and with 10:47 left in the game at SAP Center. Some may have thought it gave San Jose an opening, but no one could have predicted what ensued.
The Sharks rose from the dead to score four goals in 4:01 to grab the lead. The Golden Knights scored with 47 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, but Barclay Goodrow’s goal ended it 18:19 into the extra period.
The Golden Knights fell 5-4 and lost the series in seven games.
“It’s a (expletive) joke. It’s embarrassing is what it is,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “That call changes the whole outcome. Changes the whole future of us, the outcome of this year. It’s a joke. I’d be embarrassed if I was them.
“Was it stolen? Yeah. It was 3-0.”
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski appeared to be out cold on the ice after Eakin’s cross-check, and only after it was clear how hurt he was did referees stop play, huddle and call a penalty. Replays showed that Eakin cross-checked Pavelski, but the Golden Knights disagreed that it merited five minutes and a game.
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said there was no intent and no stick to the face and called it “an awful call.”
The referees didn’t offer much explanation.
“The referees called a cross-checking penalty for an infraction that caused a significant injury,” series supervisor Don Van Massenhoven said in a statement. “In their judgment, the infraction and its result merited a major penalty.”
Angry or not, disheartened or not, whether it should have been a major penalty or not, the Golden Knights allowed four goals on the power play, the second time in NHL history that happened.
“You still give up four goals on a power play, that’s just too many,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “Whether or not it’s a penalty or not, you still can’t do that.”
What may be forgotten to history is just how over the game felt after Max Pacioretty scored at 3:36 into the third. Vegas led 3-0 in front of a stunned SAP Center, and Marc-Andre Fleury was standing on his head. He made one spectacular save after another, and it seemed like only a miracle could help the Sharks.
Then the penalty happened. Logan Couture’s goal was unsheathing the knife. Tomas Hertl’s was sharpening it. Couture's second was driving it into Vegas’ heart and Kevin Labanc’s was twisting it. It was 4-3 and it seemed like the arena might crack from the shaking of the crowd.
Marchessault’s late goal with the extra attacker was enormous, and pulled the dagger out of the Golden Knights’ chances. It started the game over, an opportunity to forget a penalty they didn’t believe they deserved, but it turned out the wound still remained even after the knife was gone. Goodrow’s overtime goal ended it all.
“Last year we were in the Stanley Cup Final and it was tough to lose,” Gallant said. “Tonight was tougher than that.”
The Golden Knights had a 3-1 lead in the series and a 3-0 lead in the third period of Game 7. This was a team that could have competed for the Stanley Cup after watching the top seed in the West go down and looking forward to home ice in the second round.
Now, a long offseason awaits. There will be trades and free agent signings and extensions and everything that goes along with a hockey offseason.
It’s just happening a lot sooner than anyone on the team anticipated.
“Look where we are, summer’s starting, five months until game one when the regular season starts,” Marchessault said. “You think we were ready to get our summer going here? We’re a great team.”
Then he faded off before finishing.