Vegas General Manager George McPhee said the NHL also reached out to him to offer an apology.
“They made a mistake and I’m sure they feel bad about it,” he said.
The Golden Knights were leading 3-0 with just under 11 minutes left in the game when Vegas forward Cody Eakin checked San Jose’s Joe Pavelski, who bounced off the Golden Knights’ Paul Stastny as he fell to the ice. Pavelski remained down for a few moments while bleeding and woozy, but play continued until there was a stoppage shortly thereafter.
At that point, the game officials conferred and gave Eakin a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct. With a man advantage for a quarter of the period, the Sharks scored a remarkable four times in that span to take the lead. Eventually, Vegas tied the game and sent it to overtime, but San Jose was able to get the series-winning goal, giving Foley and the Knights a particularly bitter exit from their season.
“The game was ours, it was over, 3-zip,” Foley said Thursday (via the AP). “We were looking, saying, ‘All we gotta do is play some defense, play defense and stay out of the box.’ Within 30 seconds, 5-minute major. It wasn’t a penalty. Painful.”
The Knights were the only one decrying the penalty — more than a few observers took issue with the fact that nothing was called right away, and that it appeared the officials took their cue from the apparent severity of Pavelski’s injury rather than Eakin’s act.
Vegas Coach Gerard Gallant said after the game that officials were incorrect in their explanation to him of their decision. “They said he cross-checked him across the face, and as we all saw, that didn’t happen,” Gallant said (via ESPN). “There was no high stick that hit him in the face.
“When Stastny came out, [Pavelski] fell and banged his head on the ice. That’s the unfortunate part of it. It was an awful call,” the coach continued. “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.”
Longtime NHL referee Kerry Fraser said Wednesday on Twitter that he “felt sick in the pit of my stomach” when the penalty was called.
“Mistakes are made, we all made enough of them, but a cross-check SHOVE to the chest area in this case was not the overriding caused of Pav’s awkward fall/injury,” he wrote. “Incidental contact from Stastny resulted in bad ending.”
Two referees who worked that game, Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt, will reportedly not officiate any second-round playoff series. According to ESPN, O’Halloran leads all active referees in postseason games officiated, but being skipped for a round greatly increases the chance that he won’t participate in any later rounds, either.
Foley said the NHL executive told him that “it was a bad call, and we want to recognize that it was a mistake.” He said (via The Athletic’s Jesse Granger) that made him feel somewhat better about it.
Sharks Coach Peter DeBoer said Pavelski was day-to-day but was not expected to be available for Friday’s Game 1 of San Jose’s playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche.
DeBoer also noted that he hasn’t “gotten many of their calls where they made a mistake.” The San Jose coach added: “There were a couple earlier in that series where I would have appreciated a call. We’re past that. We’re on to the next opponent now.”