I feel sorry for those who turned off the TV early in the third period of the San Jose/Vegas game last night, because you missed the absolute epitome of drama that playoff hockey provides.
You missed an emotionally charged final ten minutes and 47 seconds of regulation, followed by a fast-paced, intense 18:19 of overtime.
It was freaking awesome.
If you missed the carnage, let’s recap.
Max Pacioretty scored three and a half minutes into the third to give Vegas a 3-0 lead. We will discuss their second goal later, but when he scored most hockey fans felt it was over and the San Jose Sharks would be eliminated. They were mistaken.
Just under six minutes later Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking. After the luxury of slow motion video review, it looked like Eakin didn’t deserve a major penalty, but the referees don’t have the benefit of slow motion review. They call the game in real time, and sometimes errors are made. If that play should be reviewable is for another article. **I don’t think more video review is best for the league, just look at the asinine offside rule, but that article will wait for another day.**
I think the vast majority who watch this replay believe Eakin’s actions didn’t warrant a major penalty. A minor penalty, sure, but not a major.
So we can agree in hindsight it was the wrong call. Is that fair?
Ray Ferraro was the colour analyst for the game. He offered up this early this morning.
If everybody looked at that play last night in live time only (as the refs had to do) it would be virtually impossible to get it right all the time. I was 70 feet or so from contact (same side as low official) and it took me 3 looks on my monitor to see what happened https://t.co/9rg8013sMt
— Ray Ferraro (@rayferrarotsn) April 24, 2019
I would agree. It is easier to yell ‘bad call” after watching it on replay, but in real time I can understand somewhat why the call was made. Mistakes happen. It is part of sports.
It was an incorrect call. It changed the game. But for me, it didn’t cost Vegas the game. Those are two separate things in my eyes.
Here’s what happened.
Eakins penalty started at 9:13 of the third.
At 9:20 Logan Couture scores on the powerplay. Seven seconds into the man advantage.
At 10:09 Tomas Hertl scores.
At 12:53 Logan Couture scores again. Tie game.
At 13:21 Kevin Labanc scores. Sharks lead.
The Sharks scored four powerplay goals in a span of 4:01. Labanc had 1-3-4.
He had one point in the series prior to this four-minute onslaught. He is only the 21st player in NHL playoff history to score four PP points in one game, and his four points in 4:01 are the fastest four PP points in NHL playoff history. If you said, “I’ve never seen that before,” you were 100% accurate.
The Sharks are the second team in NHL history to score four goals on one major penalty in playoff history. It has happened twice in the regular season also.
In 8,844 playoff games what you witnessed unfold in that four minute span occurred only once before.
On April 27th, 1988 in game four of their series, the LA Kings led the St.Louis Blues 3-0 after 40 minutes. At the 8:34 mark of the third period Sean O’Donnell took a fighting major after Geoff Courtnall, ran into goalie Jamie Storr. **I give Storr credit for his performance. Leg kick on the ice, little movement, and then suddenly a surge to rip of the helmet and stand up. Solid acting.**
O’Donnell got five and a game, Courtnall got two minutes for charging, but Kings forward Ian Lapierre also received a two-minute minor for boarding.
The Blues scored four goals in 3:07. Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis each had three assists and the Blues won the game 4-3 and swept the Kings.
But I digress. Back to last night.
The Sharks scored four goals in four minutes and led the game.
I recognize that upon review, the call was incorrect, but that doesn’t absolve the Vegas penalty killers.
They were freaking horrendous.
The call was incorrect, and it gave San Jose some life, but it didn’t guarantee they would score four goals.
One bad call doesn’t mean you forget how to kill a penalty.
Labanc lit them up for four points. Labanc is a solid NHL player, but he isn’t a superstar. In his career he’s played another 65 minutes of PP time in the playoffs and has four points. In the regular season he has 39 career playoff points in 425 minutes.
In their brief history the Golden Knight have played 27 playoff games. In 171:29 of PK time they have allowed 23 goals. Take away the 4:01 from last night and they’d allowed 19 goals in 167:30. They were 82% on the PK prior to the major. And in 164 regular season games over two seasons their PK is 81.2%. That is ninth best over the past two seasons.
This team knew how to kill a penalty, but for four minutes last night, they couldn’t do it.
I’m sorry, but that isn’t on the official. A bad call doesn’t mean you stop playing.
Here’s who was on the ice for the four goals against.
Couture goal 9:20: Marc-Andre Fleury, Brayden McNabb, Deryk Engelland, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone.
It was seven seconds after the faceoff, and not surprisingly Gerard Gallant kept all five on the ice for the ensuing faceoff. Stone and Statsny changed 18 seconds after the faceoff, and Reilly Smith and William Karlsson came out. The defence never changed.
Hertl goal: 10:09: Fleury, McNabb, Engelland, Smith and Karlsson.
Stone, Tomas Nosek, Nate Schmidt and Jon Merrill came on for the ensuing faceoff. Nosek changed after 59 seconds, and Statsny replaced him while the others remained on the ice. Those three were on for a whopping 1:47, but luckily didn’t get scored on. Stone, Stastny, Schmidt and Merrill got off at 11:56 and were replaced by McNabb, Engelland, Karlsson and Smith.
Smith got of at 12:37, replaced by Nosek, while Karlsson got off at 12:45 and Max Pacioretty came on. The D-men remained on.
Couture goal: 12:53: Fleury, McNabb, Engelland, Nosek and Pacioretty.
McNabb and Engelland had been on for 57 seconds. There was a slight delay after the goal, over 30 seconds before they dropped the puck, but Gerard Gallant kept those two defenders on the ice, while Karlsson and Smith returned. He changed the forwards, who had been on for 16 and eight seconds each but kept the defenders on. The same duo who had been on for all three PP goals thus far.
Labanc goal 13:21: McNabb, Engelland, Smith and Karlsson. The Sharks scored 28 seconds later and McNabb and Engelland were on the ice for a 1:25 shift and two goals against.
Was it the refs’ fault Gallant never called a timeout after the second or third goal? Or that Gallant choose to keep Engelland and McNabb on the ice, despite already having a 57-second shift and they’d be on for three goals in the past three and a half minutes?
I don’t blame the referee for that.
COST OR IMPACTED?
Yes, the original call opened up an opportunity for San Jose, but the Sharks had to take advantage of it, and the Golden Knights penalty kill didn’t have to completely unravel.
I disagree with the statement the referees cost the Sharks the game.
The call impacted the game, no question, but how Vegas dealt with the adversity was on them. They did not handle it very well.
The other factor is earlier in the game Cody Eakin scored on what looked like a clear high stick. They reviewed it, and still maintained his stick wasn’t higher than the cross bar.
Are we 100% certain if the NHL reviewed the call they would have changed it? Would you bet your life savings review overturns that call?
I’ve seen many goals go to review that weren’t overturned. Ask Cam Talbot about game five of the 2017 playoffs if you think they made the right call on review. I’d like to think they would have got it right on this review, but past history tells us that isn’t always the case.
Also, in game two of this series, the Sharks scored to go up 4-3, but the goal was disallowed and Logan Couture was handed a minor penalty for goalie interference. Vegas scored on the PP and won that game.
Couture wasn’t even looking at Fleury, who came out of his crease and there was contact. I don’t think that call was cut and dry. In fact, I thought they got it wrong.
There will always be borderline calls in the NHL playoffs, because the game is so fast. It is impossible for the officials to be correct all the time.
It sucks when a call goes against a team, but a bad call doesn’t guarantee a negative outcome.
We’ve seen many teams kill off an incorrect penalty, or rebound after a good goal was disallowed or a bad goal was allowed.
Adversity will always be prevalent in the playoffs, and life for that matter, and it is up to the individuals or teams to decide how they will handle it.
The Eakin penalty opened a door for the Sharks, but they had to make the plays to score, while Vegas, usually a solid penalty killing team, were unable to stop the bleeding.
That’s hockey. It can be euphoric and utterly demoralizing at the same time.
I love it. I know it can lead to frustration and jubilation within seconds, but that’s why I keep watching.