Analysis: Refs’ major meltdown mars wild Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 | TribLIVE.com
Breakfast With Benz

Analysis: Refs’ major meltdown mars wild Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7

Tim Benz
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AP
San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski, right, lies on the ice next to Vegas Golden Knights center Cody Eakin during the third period of Game 7 in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2019.
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AP
San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski, bottom center, is helped off the ice during the third period of Game 7against the Vegas Golden Knights in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

The Game 7 win for San Jose over Vegas Tuesday night was one of the most memorable hockey games I’ve ever witnessed.

If you went to bed before the Sharks won 5-4 in overtime, you missed one of the greatest finishes in NHL playoff history.

For a while, it looked like we were witnessing another Marc-Andre Fleury Game 7 goaltending virtuoso performance, akin to the ones he authored in a Penguins uniform back in 2009 and 2017.

Fleury stopped 43 shots.

Here’s the problem: Five got by him. Four happened during a single power play.

Down 3-0, the Sharks were granted a five-minute-major power play because of this cross check on Joe Pavelski by Cody Eakin.

We’ll get back to that.

But once the Sharks’ man-up unit took the ice, it scored four times during the five-minute advantage.

For some reason, Vegas coach Gerard Gallant never used his timeout during that penalty kill.

So that put the Sharks up 4-3 with 6:39 remaining. But Jonathan Marchessault tied the game at 4-4 with less than a minute to play to force overtime.

Watch a longer clip of the goal. Check out the hops by William Karlsson to jump up and catch that puck and keep it in the zone to set up the goal. What a play!

In overtime, the Sharks won it with less than two minutes remaining on Barclay Goodrow’s second playoff goal.

So the Sharks next face the Avalanche in the second round. The Golden Knights are done.

Now back to that major penalty. It shouldn’t have been a major. It wasn’t even going to be called a minor until the officials saw Pavelski was hurt, then they decided it was a major.

How do you do that without replay? Clearly, they were going to let the action continue. No official put up an arm. They only stopped play because Pavelski was helpless on the ice.

Yeah. Except they didn’t call cross-checking. Not until Pavelski’s head hit the surface. They penalized an injury. Not an infraction. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

Translating the statement: “Our refs are afraid to call two-minute penalties, but they’ll hand out a five-minute major after the fact — even though they didn’t deem an infraction necessary in the first place, nor had they seen a replay to that point.”

Explain that to me. Actually, explain that to Gallant who referred to the decision as “awful” and “a shame” and said that “we should be playing the next game.”

Explain that to Marchessault, too. (Warning: The video clip in that link contains strong language).

In the clip, I loved Marchessault’s analogy to the Saints getting robbed in the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. One difference, though, is in that game, the officials ignored an obvious penalty. This time the officials created one after they ignored it at first.

But, between F-bombs, what Marchessault said is scary. According to him, the officials called a major “because it looked bad.” There wasn’t a call because a penalty was warranted. They called a major because of the way the outcome “looked” after the play.

Like every blow-to-the-head penalty you see in football these days, the referees don’t call what they see anymore. They call what they fear they’ll read on Twitter after a game if a player stays down.

To be clear, I don’t feel sorry for Vegas because that’s a crummy play for Eakin to run off the faceoff. The dangerous result of that play is the reason that type of cross check should be called as a common foul more often.

But, again, they didn’t call it. Just like the zebras refuse to enforce it on 99 faceoffs out of 100.

They didn’t even know what to call at first. In fact, even this potential explanation of the call — section 59.3 below — that I got on Twitter last night is flawed.

OK. I grasp that. But was the “severe contact” a result of the cross check? Or did Pavelski fall hard because of a collision with Paul Stastny after the cross check?

I’ll go with Choice B.

Controversy aside, that was the most entertaining hockey game I’ve seen since the Penguins-Capitals in Game 6 in the second round of the 2016 Eastern Conference playoffs.

That was the over-the-glass delay-of-game fiasco that the Penguins managed to win in overtime. In both cases, I found myself saying: “I can’t believe what the — bleep — I’m watching.”

You can substitute Marchessault’s favorite word in there if you like.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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