At one point in their first-round NHL playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, the Vegas Golden Knights held a three-games-to-one lead. That didn’t hold up, as San Jose won Games 5 and 6 (the latter in double overtime) to stave off elimination, but the Golden Knights must have felt pretty good about their chances midway through the third period of Tuesday night’s Game 7: They led 3-0 and had a 98.81 percent chance of advancing to the second round, according to MoneyPuck.com.

That didn’t hold up either, for reasons that left Vegas’s players spewing profanities after the game.

With just less than 11 minutes remaining, the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski won a faceoff against the Knights’ Cody Eakin, who responded with a cross-check that sent Pavelski tumbling into Vegas forward Paul Stastny. The collision caused Pavelski to hit his head on the ice and left him bloodied. The officials stopped play, but not to call a penalty on Eakin. At least not yet.

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As the Sharks’ players and trainers helped Pavelski, referees Eric Furlatt or Dan O’Halloran decided that Eakin’s cross-check was indeed worthy of a penalty, and a five-minute major plus a game misconduct to boot. So down 3-0 with a little more than 10 minutes remaining in their season, San Jose embarked on a five-minute power play that turned out to be ludicrously fruitful: The Sharks would score four goals in four minutes, taking a 4-3 lead.

In the wake of that surely deflating blitz, Vegas somehow wasn’t yet done: Jonathan Marchessault would tie the score at 4 with 47 seconds left. But Barclay Goodrow would end things after 18:19 of overtime, beating Marc Andre-Fleury and sending the Sharks to a second-round matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.

There was a lot of unpack after the game, obviously, starting with the officials’ decision to issue the five-minute major to Eakin even when they didn’t halt play immediately after the cross-check took place.

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“It’s a f---ing joke. To call five minutes for that? It changed the whole outcome of the game,” Marchessault said. “Like, seriously, what is that? It’s so disappointing. The game’s not even close. It’s 3-0. Call a [two-minute minor]? Okay. But a five? For something you don’t even see? You just call the outcome. It’s a f---ing joke. It’s embarrassing. That’s what it is.”

Via a pool reporter, the NHL issued a statement from series officiating supervisor Don Van Massenhoven: “The referees called a cross-checking penalty for an infraction that caused a significant injury. In their judgment, the infraction and its result merited a major penalty.”

But that explanation didn’t square with what Vegas Coach Gerard Gallant said he was told by the referees after the play.

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“They said he cross-checked him across the face, and as we all saw, that didn’t happen,” Gallant said. “There was no high-stick that hit him in the face. When Stastny came out, he fell and banged his head on the ice. That’s the unfortunate part of it. It was an awful call. We’ve all seen it. It’s too bad we end up losing because of that because we’re in control of the hockey game.”

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Marchessault drew a comparison to this year’s NFC championship game, when the Rams advanced past the Saints because of a blatant officiating error.

"It's the same thing as with that football team. The Saints. It changes the whole outcome,” Marchessault said.

“They called a bad call, and look where we are. Summer starts, and it’s f---ing five months now until Game 1 of the regular season starts. It’s awful. You think we were ready to get our summer going here? We’re a great team. It’s unbelievable.”

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