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Cody Eakin Talks About What He Went Through Following The Major That Wasn’t

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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A Tough Way To End

**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.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Built Through Adversity, It’s Time For These Golden Knights To Prove They’ve Learned What Last Year’s Team Didn’t

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last year when the Golden Knights needed to win a game, they got it pretty much every single time. Whether it was off a bad road trip, following a tough few losses at home, or even through the playoffs when they were in danger of falling well behind in a series, they always rose to the occasion and got the job done.

With the exception of one time.

Vegas fell behind 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, couldn’t get a puck to go early in Game 4 and faded away to the darkness in Game 5. That team was used to it all going right, and then it didn’t, and they crumbled.

This year, it hasn’t gone quite that way. Big periods, big games, big moments, the Golden Knights haven’t come out successfully every time.

You reset your team. It happens all the time, during a game, between games, you just get ready for the next one. Last night was a heartbreaker, but you get home last night and everything’s fine, you just get ready for the next one. -Gerard Gallant

The 2018-19 Golden Knights have faced real adversity. They started out poorly at just 8-11-1. They were out of the playoff picture as late as the middle of December. Things looked like they were headed down the drain prior to the deadline. But every time, they responded. It wasn’t always pretty, but they always fought through it and that’s exactly what they trying to do heading into Game 7 after failing on two previous tries to end the series.

Heck, just inside of this series it’s already happened. The Golden Knights needed Game 2 after dropping the opener. They came out on fire scoring three times in the first seven minutes. But then, disaster struck as they gave up three before the period was out. What did they do? They went to the locker room, regrouped, and came out and played 40 minutes of solid road hockey to win a game. Again, it wasn’t pretty, but they eventually found a way.

We’ve had ups and downs all season, it’s like a regular normal season. To come up short in this one was tough, but that’s a good team over there. We’ve got to come out with an effort that’s a little better. -Deryk Engelland

This team isn’t perfect like the 2017-18 Golden Knights seemed to be. They didn’t always have the answer, at least not right away. The hope now is that it’s all been a warmup for the most important moment of the year tonight at the SAP Center.

They are battle tested and have the scars to remember that this has been far from the fairy tale of a year ago. That fairy tale ended abruptly, and horrendously because that team wasn’t ready to deal with the peril that came with the final boss.

This team should be looking at the fact that 3-1 has turned into 3-3 and saying, “no big deal.” This team should be able to overcome what looks like a daunting task of winning a Game 7. This team is built for this moment.

60 minutes (or maybe more) will say a lot about the second year Golden Knights. Did they harness the adversity, learn from it, and use it to avoid a monumental collapse. Or was it all just a glimpse of the future. That this has been, still is, and will forever be remembered as, flawed.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or at least that’s what my favorite Kelly Clarkson song says (well, really it’s like my 8th favorite, but we’ll save my love for Kelly Clarkson for another day).

So far, nothing’s killed the Golden Knights. The question is, are they actually stronger. We’ll know in a few long hours, and it’s either going to be agony or bliss.

Welcome to Game 7. It’s the worst best thing in sports, and there’s no stopping it now.

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