NHL apologizes to Golden Knights; Refs won’t work next round
LAS VEGAS — The owner of the Vegas Golden Knights said Thursday a senior NHL executive phoned him to apologize for a penalty called during Game 7 of his team’s loss to the San Jose Sharks.
Owner Bill Foley said the call came the morning after Vegas lost 5-4 in overtime Tuesday night to end the first-round series. Foley said at a news conference the call came from an executive who is “about as senior as you can get,” but he did not want to identify him.
The play in question was a major penalty on Cody Eakin of the Golden Knights that Foley described as “infuriating.”
The owner said the executive admitted it was a “bad call,” and the league did “acknowledge” it. Foley said the apology made him “feel a little better after that.”
Foley said he was sitting with injured forward Erik Haula in a suite at SAP Center when Eakin cross-checked Sharks captain Joe Pavelski in the chest with 10 minutes, 47 seconds to play and the Knights winning 3-0. Paul Stastny bumped Pavelski as he fell to the ice, where he was knocked out and bleeding on the ice.
The officials conferred on the unreviewable play while a dazed Pavelski was helped to the locker room with a towel pressed to his head. Eakin was assessed a 5-minute penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct. The Sharks scored four goals on the ensuing power play.
ESPN reported referees Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt, who were on the ice for the call, will not work the second round. O’Halloran has officiated more playoff games than any active ref, and he is expected to be omitted from the conference finals for the first time in more than 10 years. A league source told ESPN refs who don’t work rounds earlier in the postseason generally are not included later in the playoffs.
Series supervisor Don VanMassenhoven said the major penalty was given because the cross-check caused a significant injury.
“The game was ours, it was over, 3-zip,” Foley said. “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.”
San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said Pavelski is listed as day-to-day but is not expected to be cleared for Game 1 of the second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
DeBoer downplayed the league’s call to Foley.
“I haven’t gotten many of their calls where they made a mistake,” DeBoer said. “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.”