Yeah, I feel that way too, Will. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
The Buffalo Sabres have the kicked “No Goal,” the Oakland Raiders have the “Tuck Rule,” and the English national soccer team has the “Hand of God.” Those moments will live forever for the fan bases of each respective team, and unfortunately three months ago the Golden Knights joined the club.
The controversial #NotAMajor call on Cody Eakin opened the door for the San Jose Sharks to recover from a 3-0 deficit to score four goals on a phantom five-minute penalty call. There’s no debating it, the call was wrong and without it, the Golden Knights would have won Game 7 and been off to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
But, as easy as it is to say that, it’s just as easy to say, “or they could have not allowed four goals inside of the same penalty kill.”
Understandably, Golden Knights fans are probably not rushing to the film room to take another look at exactly what happened, and admittedly I wasn’t either. But, after 88 days, it was finally time for me to figure out what the hell actually happened. How in the world did the Golden Knights, a team that had never allowed two goals on the same power play, a team that has killed penalties at an 81% clip, and a team who killed 26 of 29 (90%) in the series, allow FOUR on the same power play?
Let’s start from the top.
**For the sensitive and/or squeamish, I did my best to cut the clips as tightly as possible to avoid watching the puck go in the net and the celebration. You’re welcome.**
Goal #1 (0:06 of PK elapsed)
Paul Stastny loses a draw clean to Tomas Hertl who wins it directly back to Erik Karlsson. However, the Golden Knights get into their penalty killing shape pretty quickly and take away any dangerous shot lane for Erik Karlsson. Nonetheless, Erik Karlsson rips a shot directly into the legs of Stastny and Hertl. It’s a terrible shot, it could have easily bounced somewhere else and Vegas cleared it, but, it didn’t. Instead, it bounced directly to a Shark. Stastny couldn’t find it quickly enough to stop the cross-ice pass. Then, the only line of defense is Deryk Engelland. He kneels down for a block, but Logan Couture shoots high. Marc-Andre Fleury never fully gets across. He’s made that save before and it would have been a hell of a save, but on that one, it snuck through.
Really, there’s no one to blame on this one. Maybe you can make the argument Engelland could have done more to block the shot. Maybe you can argue Fleury could have made the save. Both are fair, but harsh. For me, this is a bad bounce on a well-defended shot that leads to a team playing a man down looking like they are a man down.
It took nearly two full days, but finally, it was time.
Moments before heading into his final meeting with the media, Gerard Gallant spoke to Cody Eakin for the first time following the penalty that changed the series against the San Jose Sharks.
We left him alone. To be totally honest with you, I talked to him five minutes ago in the lunchroom and I said, ‘Cody’ and he said ‘Turk, I’m fine.’ -Gallant
With just over 10 minutes left in the game, Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct, therefore ending the night for him, and eventually sinking the Golden Knights season. The NHL has since admitted the call was incorrect by informing, separately, George McPhee and The Creator via phone. They’ve pulled the referees who made the call from the playoffs, ending their seasons as well, and the process of changing the rules on how a penalty like that will be handled in the future are already underway.
He said ‘I know I didn’t do anything wrong, I’m fine.’ He said ‘I can move on and go from that.’ So, you know, you felt bad for Cody but he’s fine and he’s ready to go. And again, nobody is blaming Cody Eakin, obviously. -Gallant
And while no one is blaming Eakin, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have to live through what can only be described as one of the worst nightmares the sport of hockey has ever dolled out to an individual player.
Actually when they called me out of the box I thought, okay they reviewed it and realized it wasn’t a penalty and I was going back to the bench, but they said no you are gone.
They said get off the ice and that’s pretty much all that was said. There were no arguments or disagreements because really at the time I wasn’t quite sure what happened. I saw him on the ice but I know I didn’t cross-check him in the face or make him bleed personally. It was just accidental, so when he was on the ice bleeding I was kinda shocked I said what the heck just happened. -Eakin
That was pretty much the response of everyone on the in the arena, including the officials. What the heck just happened?
The only thing everyone knew was the San Jose Sharks Captain was laying on the ice, out cold, bleeding from the head and his only participation in the play was a face-off. He must have been seriously injured by Eakin, it’s the only thing that makes sense with this outcome, or at least that’s what the referees thought.
Everyone now knows that’s not what happened. But the referees went off script, didn’t follow the protocol laid out in the NHL Rulebook, made up a penalty they thought must have happened. It changed a series, the future of two franchises, and the night (and probably life) of Cody Eakin.
So I went right to the room where the extra guys were watching it. I watched the replay and figured out pretty quickly exactly what happened. I watched it about 20 times and then went to the locker room, sat there, and watched the rest of the game. -Eakin
What happened was a standard cross-check following a faceoff, which happens on just about every faceoff in the NHL. The result caused a player to lose his balance and incidental contact with Paul Stastny caused Joe Pavelski to fall dangerously onto the ice and hit his head. It’s not a major penalty, it’s probably not even a minor, it’s more so an unfortunate play in an intense Game 7 that is taking place on a surface made of ice, which at times can be slippery.
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.**
On April 16, the Golden Knights held a 3-1 series lead over San Jose. Everyone was making plans for the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Whether it was how you were going to pay for your playoff tickets, where you would attend a watch party or merely rearrange your schedule to watch or listen, you had every reason to believe your team was going to be playing hockey in May.
Problem was, no one bothered to tell the Sharks.
And while it will be part of the team’s and the NHL’s history that the third-period call on Cody Eakin which resulted in a five-minute major penalty that led to the Sharks scoring four times and ultimately eliminating the Knights 5-4 in overtime Tuesday night at SAP Center, the fact remains the Knights failed to seal the deal.
They got outplayed in Game 5. They failed to capitalize on numerous Grade-A chances in Game 6. They had a 3-0 lead in Game 7 with just under 11 minutes to play.
You want to blame the referees? I’m not going to dissuade you. The call wasn’t only egregious, it was on the wrong player. Yes, Eakin cross-checked Joe Pavelski. But it was Paul Stastny who hit Pavelski and caused him to fall to the ice. If anyone deserved to be sent off, it was No. 26.
Obviously the decision to assess a major rather than a two-minute penalty had a tremendous impact on the game. In addition to having played well Tuesday and scoring the second Vegas goal, Eakin was one of the Knights’ top penalty killers and with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare not even playing, that’s the team’s top two front-line killers missing.
Yet the Knights still had enough quality people on the ice to kill off the penalty. Reilly Smith, Tomas Nosek, Will Karlsson, Mark Stone, Deryk Engelland, Brayden McNabb — all took regular turns killing penalties this season and had been effective doing so.
The penalty kill essentially evaporated as the Sharks took full advantage of their man advantage to take the lead.
You still give up four goals on a power play, that’s just too many. Whether or not it’s a penalty or not, you still can’t do that. -Nate Schmidt
To the Knights’ credit, they found a way to respond with Jonathan Marchessault tying the game with 47 seconds left in regulation and forcing OT.
That said, the Sharks deserve credit for their resiliency, going back to Game 5. They never gave up and whether or not they deserve to advance against Colorado can be debated given the call. But no one can question San Jose’s resolve.
It was a hell of a series, one that will be memorable for numerous reasons.
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.**
The stunned silence inside T-Mobile Arena Sunday evening was deafening.
Tomas Hertl’s shot from the high slot had managed to elude Marc-Andre Fleury and the San Jose Sharks remain very much alive in this opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the Golden Knights following their 2-1 double-overtime win.
Watching from the press box as the Sharks celebrated, I couldn’t help to think what was going through the minds of virtually all of the 18,458 who had come to watch their team advance to the next round, were expecting handshakes but instead left wondering if this was their last visit to their beloved Fortress.
After all, it had been a strong effort by the home team. They had unleashed 59 shots on the other team’s goaltender. They had dominated play for good portions of the contest. They had spotted the visitors a 1-0 lead with 6.5 seconds left in the first period only to come back to pull even.
So why aren’t we talking about the Knights playing the Colorado Avalanche this morning? Why is there still unfinished business with San Jose?
The Sharks deserve the lion’s share of credit for extending this series to a deciding Game 7 Tuesday. They are a tenacious, opportunistic bunch. Their goaltender, Martin Jones, has rediscovered his game and his coach, Peter DeBoer, stuck with him when everyone was demanding he start Aaron Dell in net for Game 5.
Jones has played great in his last two games and it starts with him when looking for any explanations as to why this series is still ongoing.
I think our group has never lost faith in him. I think we knew he was capable of this and we needed him tonight and he was our best player. -DeBoer
Jones said he’s just trying to play the right way and not overthink things. It’s working out pretty well of late.
I’m sticking with it and just trying to read the game and play loose for the last few games. Trust my game and trust our team. -Jones
The Knights tipped their cap to the San Jose goalie. What else could they do?
Yeah, we were all over them. We had great pressure and forced a lot of turnovers. Martin Jones was pretty good tonight; you have to give him credit. -Jonathan Marchessault
But it’s not just San Jose’s goalie that has the Knights in this position. Hertl and Logan Couture, two players I had said before the series that the Knights had to contain, have dominated. Couture got the first goal and he has four in the series. Hertl has five goals. As a team, the Sharks have 18 goals, so that’s two guys generating 50 percent of the offense.
Yes, both are tough to play against. But if the Sharks advance beyond Tuesday, they’ll be the reason why.
(Hertl’s) confidence is as high as he wants it. You can see that, and you feed off him. He’s been a huge piece for us -Joe Pavelski
How has this series flipped in the last 72 hours? In the first four games, the Knights’ top line was Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. Combined, they had 12 goals and 28 points. The last two games? Zilch. Stone had a gift 1:25 into Game 6 as he had an empty net to shoot at. His backhand was wide. If he scores, it changes the entire complexion of the game.
Pacioretty also had an open net and it took a great play by Pavelski to deny him as he managed to get his stick on Pacioretty’s at the right post before he could score.
Tomas Nosek and Reilly Smith also had Grade A chances in the opening 20 minutes and both failed to convert. If any of those go in, we’re probably talking about Colorado.
But hockey is as much mental as it is physical. And as we head to Game 7, the onus is on the Golden Knights to reboot mentally and emotionally.
You could see those seeds being planted immediately after the game from Gerard Gallant and his players.
You get ready to play, you forget about tonight, it’s over with now and you move on and get ready for the next one. We played a heck of a game tonight. I’m proud of our guys. The way that they competed; 59 shots on net. It wasn’t our night, but there is still another day for us, fortunately. We will get ready for Game 7 and be ready to go. -Gallant
And this from Marchessault:
We’re confident in the group we have here. We’re a confident group and a great hockey team. Just have to keep going and stick with it. I think if we keep playing the right way, like we did tonight, I think we’ll get rewarded. -Marchessault
What it boils down to is the Knights’ best players have to show up and outplay San Jose’s best. That has not happened in the last two games. Fleury has to play better. The Stastny line has to play better. The Knights’ entire defensive corps has to play better.
And while it is encouraging to see Marchessault and his line starting to generate some offense, it may not be enough. The bottom six need to help with the heavy lifting. Cody Eakin and Alex Tuch have only a goal apiece. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Will Carrier and Ryan Reaves have been kept off the scoresheet the entire series.
There’s nothing you can do when flukey things happen. Shea Theodore tried to prevent Hertl from scoring in the second OT and he got his stick on Hertl’s stick a split-second too late. And yes, maybe Fleury should have stopped that one, but that play all started by the Knights’ failure to maintain possession while on a rare OT power play. So if you’re looking to assign blame, you can point to all six players on the ice for Vegas.
But what’s done is done. As the players said afterward, you turn the page and you move on. But the stakes are obviously raised at this point. There’s no more cushion to fall back on. No more house money to play with. It’s one game, winner take all.
The Golden Knights are one win away from advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Although it’s not an elimination game for Vegas, many players are mentally preparing as if tonight’s contest is a series-deciding Game 7.
We’ve got to play like it’s our last one.-Cody Eakin
Yesterday, several Golden Knights expressed having a Game 7 mindset. Jonathan Marchessault has been a part of every clinching game in franchise history. The forward knows how crucial it is advancing in less than seven games. Something Vegas never faced during last season’s Cup chase.
This has to be the biggest game of the series. We need to close it out. It’s hard to do but we need to want it more than them. -Jonathan Marchessault
Golden Knights veteran Max Pacioretty has played in a handful of deep series over his eleven-year career. His focus for tonight’s game is the same as if it were an elimination game.
There’s really no excuse when you come home and you have a day off, and then a practice day the next day. No matter what, you should feel one hundred percent. You get a day off you really need to use it to your advantage. Sure, both teams have it but at the same time we feel that being at home in front of our crowd… we’ve found ways to get them to be the difference maker in home games. -Max Pacioretty
Eakin is only concerned about winning because he’s aware of the edge San Jose would gain if they were to force a Game 7.
The Golden Knights dropped their first closeout game in franchise history in Game 5, falling in San Jose 5-2. It was far from a perfect game for either team, but the Golden Knights certainly didn’t play a terrible game (like they did in Game 1).
So, the difference between winning and losing is minuscule. I asked six players and the head coach the exact same question, “If there’s one thing that you think needs to change from Game 5 to help you win Game 6, what would it be?” Here are their answers.
I think we’ve got to get more people going to the net, more scoring chances inside. I thought we stayed on the outside a little bit too much last game. I think we’ve got to get more pucks to the net, more people to the net looking for rebound goals and more ugly goals. -Gerard Gallant
Play more shift-by-shift, a little bit more urgent. Bring the intensity to them rather than waiting to see what they are going to do. Bring the game to them. -Alex Tuch
The first 10 minutes of the game, they were buzzing early. We didn’t play a terrible game, but we didn’t play a game you need to play to close out a series. Every night it’s whoever wants it more. -Jonathan Marchessault
I’m not sure it’s something that needs to change. I liked that we were disciplined, we stayed out of the box a lot more. I think that’s a big part of it. That part I’d like to continue and a good start would be nice. -Nate Schmidt
I wouldn’t say change that much, just be a little bit sharper. Our execution wasn’t perfect last game. I thought we had the right mindset in a lot of areas however no sustained o-zone time. Could be the forecheck, could be holding on to pucks, it’s probably different in every scenario, but we know we have a bit better in all areas. -Max Pacioretty
You’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities whether it’s fortunate or unfortunate and vice-versa, if it goes against you, you have to keep going. For us it’s just to keep playing the same way. Come out playing well and try to be the aggressors at home. Plus, they were probably a little more desperate than we were and now we’ve got to match that. -Paul Stastny
I would say it’s forechecking. We’ve got to put more pressure on them and need to forecheck as a group of five. -Shea Theodore
It’s a wide range of answers, but they all have merit. My answer is a bit of a combination of Theodore’s and Pacioretty’s. In this series, it starts and ends with the Golden Knights ability to put pressure on the Shark’s defensemen. The best place to do it is in the offensive zone with a good forecheck, but it applies in the neutral zone and defensively at the blue line. The Golden Knights need to be tighter to the Sharks players as well as a bit more connected as a unit when they are trying to get the puck back.
This being said, it’s not like the Golden Knights were bad at it in Game 5, they just didn’t capitalize on the mistakes they created. There were five or six terrific chances that if Vegas converts just one, we may not even be talking about the Sharks anymore. So the biggest piece that needs to improve for me is the final one. When the chance is there, bury it.
At home, they’ve been able to do it against San Jose, especially early in games. It has to happen again in Game 6.
With the exception of last night’s Game 5, at the end of games in this first-round series I catch myself having the same thought, how do players have the energy to beat each other up after a playing a grueling 60-minute playoff game?
Come to find out Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault has had the same concern.
Yeah we were actually talking about this. I think the league should start giving out fines when games are out of hand… it’s just stupid stuff that happens. It’s not only our series. -Marchessault
Of course we can’t let the Golden Knights off the hook but San Jose was out of control up until last night. Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Marcus Sorensen and others have created several barroom brawls at the end of their three losses. Causing multiple game misconducts, and unnecessary injuries. Vegas got a quick scare when Cody Eakin was bloodied up wrestling with Meier after Game 3.
With little consequence why would a losing team stop instigating when the game is out of hand? If a penalty is assessed it won’t matter to an angry player because penalties don’t carry over. In a strange way, physical scrums late in one-sided games can benefit the losing team.
There’s a time and a place for it. When you’re up 5-0 last thing you want to do is give them any advantage. That’s all extra stuff. At the end of the day, you just want to win games. That’s what we’re all here for. -Brayden McNabb
Mucking it up after the whistle is one thing, but intent to injure another player when a game gets out of hand is beyond the code.
Maybe they should start giving out fines and maybe guys will think twice about it. They had Meier clearing the puck on Miller on purpose. It’s just stupid. We don’t need this. You really want to injure a guy? I think it’s something they should look into.”-Marchessault
Last night’s game was tight down the stretch so neither team could risk a minor or a severe penalty. Both teams played more disciplined and kept it clean after the horn. With two elimination games left I’d expect Vegas and San Jose to control their emotions and focus solely on winning, but if a game gets out of hand in the third, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the extracurricular stuff comes back.
That being said, don’t worry about the end of series handshake line, both teams respect the game and their opponent enough to forgive the insults, elbows and left-hooks.
In the immortal words of Omar Little, “A man must have a code.”
Through four games of the series, the San Jose Sharks have iced 14 different forwards, seven different defensemen, and two goalies. Only four of those 23 players have yet to be on the ice for a goal by Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, or Paul Stasnty.
The Sharks have tried multiple forward lines, they’ve rotated defense pairings, they’ve tried checking lines, skill lines, speed lines, superstar defense pairings, and defense-first pairings. Nothing has worked.
It’s great, we always know they are going to be in the right spots. You just want to get the puck in their hands and they make the plays and score. -Shea Theodore
The Golden Knights line of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Stastny have scored 12 goals, tallied 28 total points, and they’ve done it on just 34 shots.
With every series now having four games finished, Stone leads the league in playoff goals, Stastny leads in playoff assists (tied with Pacioretty), and Pacioretty (tied with Stone) leads in playoff points.
The player who has spent the most time on the ice against the Golden Knights dominant line has been Erik Karlsson. Despite being one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL, Karlsson has not been able to handle the pressure of Stastny, Stone, and Pacioretty. He’s been on the ice for 11 of their 12 goals.
Overall, Karlsson has been out there for 13 of the Golden Knights 18 goals in the series, the same number as goalie Martin Jones.
They are a special group. I hope (they continue this), I want them to, but you know what, lines are going to get hot as we go along here. Let’s hope we can get a couple of lines going too. -Nate Schmidt
The Sharks have another chance to try and crack the code tonight, and they’ll likely try something new once again, but if you ask Mark Stone, no matter what the Sharks do, that line believes it’s just a matter of keeping it simple.
I mean, we have a good team. At the end of the day we just have to play our style hockey. We have to put pressure on their defensemen. When you put pressure on anybody, it makes the game harder. -Stone
As far as the defensemen, they have a simple plan too.
It’s called watching offense from the D. You sit back, watch, and enjoy the show. -Schmidt
One more dominant effort from the line of non-Misfits, and the Golden Knights will have ridden them right into the second round.
Ryan Reaves has 40 career NHL goals. Sharks center Joe Pavelski has accrued 355 career goals, 38 of them this season. Pavelski averages 12+ more minutes a game and has $40M more in career earnings. Simple numbers alone show the wide gap between the two players. So after dropping their third straight series game, why in the world is the Sharks Captain so concerned with Reaves?
He’s called himself the lion in the jungle. You see what he does, he baits guys in and enjoys when he’s doing it. Give him credit. -Joe Pavelski, Sharks Captain
Reaves gets paid $2.75M and scored nine goals this season. Costing $300,000 per goal, clearly, the Golden Knights aren’t paying their fourth liner to score. Reaves is being paid to get into the heads of highly skilled players in the postseason. And he’s earned every penny against the Sharks.
Reaves is doing his job, he’s got us fired up at times. We’ve played against this guy 5-10 years ago when there were other heavyweights in the lineups and he was just very quiet. Now you see him he starts yapping when Haley’s out. -Joe Pavelski, Sharks forward
After each game in the series, one of the Sharks stars have brought up Reaves. The question is, why? Why are San Jose’s veteran leaders so concerned with a player that averages under ten minutes a game in this series?
Evander Kane's full comments on Ryan Reaves fight, some highlights:
"He thinks it's the WWE. Probably going to end up there pretty soon." "Nobody thinks of Ryan Reaves as a hockey player." "To chirp Jumbo's vision. The guy has over 1,000 assists. That doesn't seem too bright." pic.twitter.com/JG5heW3zB4
Future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton also piped in after Game 3. While Thornton was carrying on about Reaves, the league was getting his suspension papers prepared for the morning.
For a 30-goal scorer, boy he looked good in that fight… He looked like Brett Hull fighting Ryan. It was just tough to see Ryan go down like that versus a 30-goal scorer but hopefully he’ll have better luck next time. -Joe Thornton, Sharks forward
And as this series heads to SAP Center Thursday for what could be a series-ending Game 5 following an impressive 5-0 victory at T-Mobile Arena Tuesday night, it’s a fact Fleury has been a big part of why the Knights hold a 3-1 series lead.
He’s getting better with each period of each game. He wasn’t great in the 5-2 loss to the Sharks in Game 1. And after letting in three late first-period goals in Game 2, Fleury has been virtually unbeatable.
I’m not blaming him for the loss or the trio of goals allowed in Game 2. But he’s doing what you want your goalie to do — stop the easy ones, make a few spectacular saves, be the first line of defense on the penalty kill and keep your team in the game.
He’s tracking the puck with laser precision. He’s always a step ahead of the Sharks in anticipating where the play is going to be. His positioning is spot on. And he’s moving well in his crease and post to post.
In other words, Fleury is being Fleury. He stopped all 28 shots he faced in recording his 15th career playoff shutout, tying Chris Osgood for fourth place on the NHL’s career list.
I have felt good all playoffs. They are a good team, it’s not over obviously. It was a big game tonight and a big win for us. One game at a time. -Fleury
The win, Fleury’s 78th in the playoffs, moved him past Mike Vernon into seventh place on the all-time list for goaltender wins. Next is Ken Dryden, who had 80 postseason victories. Patrick Roy is the career leader in playoff wins with 151.
It is really cool. I have been very fortunate to play on a lot of good teams and again this year. It is very humbling to be amongst these guys who I grew up watching. -Fleury
His play Tuesday did not go unnoticed by his coach, his teammates and his opponent.
He played awesome the first two periods. We weren’t happy with our game. Obviously, we got out to the 1-0 lead in the first shift fortunately for us so that was big, but we didn’t play our type of game for two periods. I thought and we played a lot better in the third. Fleury was huge, when we needed him, he was huge. -Gerard Gallant
This from Shea Theodore:
I think when you watch him out there and he makes those saves, you see how confident he is. Even when he is playing the puck, he is confident with it and he always makes the right decisions. –Theodore
And San Jose coach Peter DeBoer tipped his hat to Fleury.
I thought we created a lot of chances on the other end, but you have to give Fleury credit. He frustrated us tonight and allowed them to be in the position they were in the third. -DeBoer
The Knights have done an awful lot of things well in this series. The line of Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone have dominated and the Sharks still haven’t found an answer for them. They’re doing the little things well, like winning faceoffs. They’re outhitting the Sharks.
What Vegas has not done well is avoiding penalties. They’re taking way too many, and it’s going to catch up with the Knights. Maybe not in this series, but perhaps in the next round. Fleury has been tremendous in standing up to the barrages of shots the Sharks have fired at him when they have the man advantage and that’s what you hope your goalie will do. Tuesday, San Jose went 0-4 on the power play and they are just 3 for 20 in the series (15%).