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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

One Call Didn’t Cost Vegas The Game

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.

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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.**

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 99CupsofCoffey

    No, the refs didn’t cost them the game. I actually kind of feel sorry for NHL Refs. They really don’t know what to call, when to call it, what might get overturned, anything. The playoffs are sometimes a “different season” than the regular season, and i blame the GM’s for all of it. Be consistent. If something is in the rulebook, call it all year, every single game. I love the NHL, but this has bugged me for years. Just call the Rulebook. If they were allowed to, things like this wouldn’t be so subjective.

    • Ratt McNuge

      Agreed. The league has a set of reg season rules and a set for the playoffs. Pick one and roll with it. It’s the “let them play” mentality of the old guard of hockey. I have no problem with that, but be consistent.

      • That's My Point

        Isn’t baseball the same way?
        Strike zone changes totally in playoffs, if you tag the bag first the runner isn’t out, caught balls are ruled not caught etc. In curling the farther from the button counts in the finals also, right?
        It is JUST the NHL that changes the rules for playoffs isn’t it?
        Fix it if it’s broken.

          • yawto

            Not that it matters, here is my take.

            I turned off the TV with 13 left in the third (receiver still on). Went to bathroom to brush teeth and get ready for bed, etc. After 8-10 minutes I check the score app to see final score. I see it is 3-3. See three close PP goals. Figure must have been a major. While I’m looking at app 4th goal flashes on. I turn tv back on and because receiver is still on, rewind to the penalty.

            First glance, without aid of review, I totally agreed with the call that was made, which I already knew from the score app. Saw the cross check in real time, saw him crumple and the blood drip out on the ice.

            After seeing replays, I agree it was a bad call, but when I saw it in real time and knew the call they made already I completely agreed with the assessment, the play appeared vicious.

            As for the rest, what Jason said is spot on. They didn’t lost that series because of a bad call. They lost it because they blew a 3-1 series lead, blaming the refs just softens the blow.

            It reminds me a lot of the blown Oilers and Ducks call from 3 years ago. While I lament the blown Goalie Interference call, quite correctly, my non oilers fan friends always bring up the three goals surrendered in the final few minutes of the game, quite correctly. This is unfortunate but sometimes the calls go your way, sometimes they don’t. You have to be able to close out a 3 goal lead late in the third no matter the circumstances or you don’t belong there.

    • boil-in-the-oil

      I agree 100% that NHL officials should call every single rule infraction, as a penalty. Why there is so much “at the discretion of the official” written into almost every rule in the book, I will never understand. Rules should be written in stone; break the rule, get penalized.

      Another huge reason penalties are not called is the officials believe it is their job to control the pace of the game. Rubbish. The NBA calls virtually every infraction and the pace of the games are still extremely high. Call freakin’ penalties, all of them. The average salary of an NHL referee ranges from $165,000 and $400,000 and for the NHL linesmen the salary range is $110,000 to $235,000. That’s a lot of dough paid to men who refuse to do their job. I have a hard time understanding this issue.

      As for the really bad cross-checking call against Vegas… it absolutely affected the final outcome. That was barely cross-checking at all, never mind a major 5 minutes. If no penalty was called (or even a 2 minute penalty) it was highly unlikely a comeback was imminent. imo.

    • They will never give up the ability to manipulate the outcome of games. Just the way they want it. I was soundly trashed for stating there would be no Canadian teams again this year, just like every year since they hired Bettman, not a coincidence IMHO.

  • Ratt McNuge

    Excellent write-up on this. It was absolutely the wrong call, but the Vegas penalty killers lost the game. Not the refs. Maybe you allow one. MAYBE two. But three? Four? It wasn’t a two-man advantage. As far as a replay for a call like that, I’m not sure. It’s definitely a discussion for the league to have.

  • ziyan94

    It felt like Vegas gave up as soon as the powerplay started.

    Unfair calls will happen, but Vegas gave up nearly a goal each minute, they can’t argue after that.
    Gallant could have called his timeout any time during the powerplay to disrupt that torrent of goals, but he chose not to.

  • That's My Point

    Absolutely no penalty should’ve been called.
    Is pushing or shoving a penalty now?
    He fell awkwardly but there was no infraction.
    McDavid goes through about 1 of these EVERY SINGLE SHIFT and there is NEVER a penalty called, yet alone a FIVE minute call in game 7 of the PLAYOFFS!
    97’s hit from behind into the boards with the ref staring at the play, NO CALL.
    97’s elbowed in the FACE by Doughty, NO CALL.
    I’ve said it before, the NHL needs the “eye in the sky”, where the off-ice officials can call the play dead every time they see an infraction. The game will be cleaned up OVERNIGHT.
    You’re Welcome.

  • Total Points

    The NHL should also review any 5 minute major or review nothing at all.

    Either have it that the game is decided by humans or not. If replays are allowed them expand the plays that can be reviewed.

    I would prefer the games to be decided by referees. The players make mistakes and so do the refs. It would make the game more exciting with the villain being the opposing team as well as the ref when the fans see fit.

  • Hemmercules

    I would have no problem with a quick review process on 5 minute majors. If even just in the playoffs. If the refs didn’t see it clearly, it makes no sense to not let them see what actually happened. 2 minute penalty, whatever, you missed a call, but a 5 minute major where goals don’t negate the penalty is a tough pill to swallow when the call is a bad one. Penalties like that can change a series. I do agree though that Vegas sh*t the bed. You need to rise up in that situation and put your body on the line to win that game.

  • Kr55

    Refs/League already messed this game up gifting Vegas that over the cross-bar deflection goal to get Vegas up 2-0. Who knows what would have happened if they didn’t blow that one.

  • camdog

    A cross check like that to the chest isn’t even a penalty in the regular season. If it was, Darnell Nurse would spend the entire game in the box. The only people defending last nights outcome are people that were cheering for the Sharks.

  • Wadentheshade

    Great article and perspective Gregor. Nice break down of each goal and how things unraveled. Watching that game will be one of those i will remember for a long time.

  • GM-macT

    You can’t have it both ways, oiler fans that complain about the refs in the Oilers ducks series (like me) can’t absolve the refs from this. Sure the Knights could’ve killed it off better but without that call the game isn’t even in question. Holding Talbot’s pad didn’t score the ducks 3 goals either but it had a huge impact on the game I’m sure we’d all agree. It was the wrong call IMO, and I was cheering for the Sharks. Vegas got robbed.

  • toprightcorner

    Vegas choked when the pressure was on. I doubt they were overly concerned right after the penalty was called as even if they gave up a goal, they still had a 2 goal lead with 6 min left in the game.

    They also had a 3-1 series lead.

    Vegas should be looking in the mirror wondering how they could not handle any adversity when it mattered most.

    Unlike the Oilers on the wrong goalie interference calls in 2017, Vegas had lots of time to control their own destiny.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Was there a cross check, yes, was it bad, well the after effect of his head hiytting the ice and blood pouring out was enough to make it 5 minutes. Refs made the call of course Vegas wasnt happy about it, but did anyone who watched the game expect the Sharks to score 3 times on the PP? I didnt, I also didnt expect Vegas to score with less than a minute to go in the game to tie it all up.

    It was one hell of a game I will say that, I watched the third and I thought Vegas had it wrapped up but its the playoffs anything can happen and last night was an example of that Vegas could have had it in OT they came close a couple of times and I thought they had the Sharks on their heels a few times, but the sharks scored and won, but honestly in OT it could have went either way. It was one hell of a game to watch I will say that

  • Rick Stroppel

    It should have been a two minute cross-checking on Eakin AND a two minute interference on Stasny. Eakin hit him so hard you could see his stick bending between his hands. Stasny also committed a foul because you cannot knock a player down to the ice when the puck is nowhere near. So SJ gets a two minute 5 on three. If they score two goals, the power play is over and they play the last 8 minutes with the score Vegas 3, SJ 2. Who knows how it would have ended up.

    Two thing about reviews. Everyone keeps talking about a “quick” video review. As it is done now, ain’t no such thing. It astounds me that they do a 3, 4 or 5 minute review when the first three video angles make it clear in 30 seconds that the call was wrong. Hockey will end up like NFL with four hour games. Second, some people say they should add reviews of plays like this and take out (for example) the offside review. Oh yeah. Then one year the SC will be decided by a goal in overtime that is 18 inches offside and the same people will be howling “why can’t they review that?”

    Here’s my idea. A third referee in the arena with access to all video replays. He is connected to the on ice referees by headset (as in soccer). No more refs skating over to the penalty box to look at stupid little screens and debate the rules while 18,000 people wait for a decision. In this case, the off ice ref could tell in thirty seconds that this was not a five minute major and tell the on ice referees what to do. AND…this system would ONLY apply in games in the last ten games of the regular season where one or both teams were facing elimination from being in the playoffs, and all playoff games. The rest of the year, who cares, it’s a game.

  • CalOil

    Dan O Halloran what would I say to Corey?) has stinking calls follow him around.

    The ref called a penalty he did not see, and gave the harshest penalty possible, this is really poor judgment. If he did not see the penalty he could have given a 2 minute minor and all the hockey people would understand… speed of game, injury etc.
    To say a 5 minute match penalty is not a significant part of the game is too generous. If Dan refs another play-off the NHL confirms they don’t discipline poor work from its officials.

  • Kr55

    Why did Eakin even throw that high cross-check on Pavelski? Part of what made Pavelski awkwardly move back was he didn’t want to take that stick his face mask that was protecting his already messed up face. Eakin was out there to defend a 3-0 lead in a series clinching game. Why try to make a little cheap shot like that on a guy with face protection? Don’t feel that sorry for him honestly. Sometimes being a douche for no good reason has consequences.

  • Fireantz

    At the time of the incident the Sharks were sleep walking into the golf season! Based on the way rules have been interpreted by the refs throughout the playoffs the cross check would not have even drawn a minor had the injury not occurred. 100% the refs made the call, not on what they saw but on the injury that was not a result of the contact with Eakins stick. 100% the game score would not be close without the “major”. 100% the refs are the differwence between a Vegas win or loss. More importantly the Sharks have little excuse if they don’t make the SC final. IMO one of the most brutal refereeing errors in the games history(and I don’t cheer for either team)

  • KootenayDan

    The refs should have called what they saw not what they thought they saw ridiculous call simply because none of them saw what actually happened. If that major was called even just a minor it would have been game over Sharks. I hope Joe Pavelski is ok and recovers 100%.

  • Serious Gord

    Clearly Jason you never studied logic or causation.

    Absolutely the wrong call is THE primary reason why Vegas lost that game. In fact it might be one of the most clear cut examples of it in pro sports.

    If the right call – no penalty – had been made, the knights win.

    It was the originating event that triggered or enabled a series of other events to happen. This is simple Simon logic.

    Columns like this are an embarrassment.